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Introduction: This report examines demographic and socioeconomic factors concerning Puerto Ricans in the United States between 1990 and 2008.

Methods: Data on Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, reorganized for public use by the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota, IPUMSusa. Cases in the dataset were weighted and analyzed to produce population estimates.

Results: By 2008 there were as many Puerto Ricans living in the United States — about 4 million — as living in Puerto Rico. About two-thirds of all Puerto Ricans in the United States were born on the U.S. mainland in 2008. When Puerto Ricans began migrating to the U.S. during the 1940s they largely settled in the New York metropolitan area. By 1960 about 80% of all Puerto Ricans lived in the states of New York and New Jersey. However, like most previous migrant groups in U.S. history they began moving away from original areas of settlement. By 2008 about one-third of all Puerto Ricans lived in New York and New Jersey. Puerto Rican households experienced rising median income levels in real terms between 1980 and 2008. However, in 2008 these incomes were still significantly lower than the other major race/ethnic groups in the U.S. and among Latino national sub-groups only Mexicans and Dominicans had lower median household incomes.

Discussion: There was a very clear and stratified social structure among Puerto Ricans in the United States when income is used as an indicator. About one-third of all Puerto Rican households earned more than $75,000 in 2008 and about 20% of all Puerto Rican households earned more than $100,000. Yet 20% of Puerto Rican household earned less than $20,000 in 2008. Puerto Ricans increasingly identified themselves as ‘white’ when they reported their race to the U.S. Census Bureau, and very few identified themselves as ‘black.’ About 55% self-declared that they were white; 7% as black; and over 38% as belonging to ‘some other race.’ Puerto Rican whites had higher median incomes and lower rates of poverty than the other two major race categories.


For additional information about this collection see

Citation information: Bergad, L. (2010). Puerto Ricans in the United States, 1900—2008: Demographic, Economic, and Social Aspects. New York, NY: Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center.



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