The 2020 Census data has exposed another consequence of the mismanagement of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
The count figures showed that the territory experienced the largest percentage decline in the population of any U.S. state or territory, according to figures released last Monday.
The data shows that the island lost one-ninth of its population in the last decade as a result of population displacement following the devastation of natural disasters over the past few years.
As Business Insider explained, it took years for the federal government’s response to natural disasters in the territory to fully take effect after President Donald Trump withheld nearly $13 billion in aid until 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.
Overall, Puerto Rico’s population fell 11.8% to 3.3 million over the past decade, according to an NBC News analysis.
While the overall U.S. population grew by 7.4% to 331.5 million people in the previous decade, Puerto Rico’s population experienced a proportional decrease.
According to analysts, the population shift on the Island is largely due to natural disasters, economic collapse due to crushing debt, earthquakes, and hurricane strikes, especially Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Puerto Rico was already experiencing a population decline mainly driven by migration and low birth rates before it was hit by Maria, according to a 2019 report by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City.
Today, and amid the raging debate surrounding the territory’s statehood, Puerto Rico’s future remains in the balance, a victim of the risky political decisions of its people and their elected representatives.