Florida has been the top destination for Puerto Ricans leaving the island's economic woes behind. A new report finds those moving from the island to Florida tend to be younger than the Sunshine State's general population, and though they are slightly more educated than other Latinos they still face several challenges.
Florida is now home to 1 million Puerto Ricans, matching New York as the two states with the highest population of borícuas (Puerto Rico is also called Borinquen going back to its indigenous roots). On Saturday the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) published a comprehensive snapshot which looked at the demographics and other characteristics of recent arrivals from the island.
Its release coincides with NCLR's annual conference in Orlando. Central Florida has long been the preferred area for islanders moving to the state.
The report found that 24 percent of those who have newly arrived from Puerto Rico are younger than 15, compared to 18 percent of Florida's total population.
There is a slightly higher level of educational attainment among recent movers compared to Latinos overall — 18 percent of islanders arriving in Florida have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 14 percent for Latinos overall. Overall, 20 percent of Florida residents have at least one college degree.
Older Puerto Ricans break the stereotype of Florida as a destination for retirees and senior citizens, as just 9 percent of Puerto Ricans 64 and older have recently moved to the state from the island.
The report, "Opportunity in the Sunshine State: Characteristics of Recent Movers from Puerto Rico to Florida," also found that among recent arrivals from the island, 20 percent do not speak English at all, compared to 10 percent of all Latinos in Florida and eight percent of Florida residents overall. Another 23 percent of recent arrivals say they have a limited command of English.
Additionally, nearly 40 percent report not having health insurance, compared to 20 percent of the state's overall population.
Since most of the recent arrivals to Florida come to the state seeking jobs and financial relief from the island's staggering debt and economic crisis, the report does show a higher rate of unemployment among them — 15 percent compared to six percent for all Floridians. They also report higher rates of poverty and lower incomes compared to other groups in the state.
"Recent movers have the human capital and potential to make significant contributions to the social, political, economic, and cultural life of Florida. However, it is clear that after making a difficult decision to leave the island, recent movers face a number of significant challenges as they make the transition to life in Florida," the report finds.
The report recommends that federal, state, and local officials coordinate and work on education and social programs geared toward this particular population group in the state to make the transition from the island to the state easier and for better integration into the state's economic and social life.
It comes amid the presidential race as both candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, vie for votes in this battleground state. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens so they are eligible to vote in November if they live in the mainland U.S.