Center for Puerto Rican Studies Researcher Also Finds That Many Puerto Ricans Live in Counties With Very High Segregation

A new public policy study by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO) examines patterns of residential settlement and segregation of Puerto Ricans in the United States and finds fast growth in the Puerto Rican population in almost all 50 states.
“ Florida has become the new epicenter for Puerto Ricans,” said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, the report’s author and a Centro researcher. “ New York State , on the other hand, is the only state in the union that has lost Puerto Rican population.”
Some of the major policy findings of Puerto Rican settlement include:
The Puerto Rican population in the United States grew at a rate of 69 percent between 1980 and 2000, from two million to 3.4 million. This growth was almost three times as fast as that of the overall population of the United States , which grew at 24 percent during those two decades. This Puerto Rican population growth was fastest during the 1980s (35 percent) than during the 1990s (25 percent).
The Puerto Rican population grew in almost every state. Growth took place in every state between 1980 and 2000, during the 1980s and during the 1990s. The only state where the Puerto Rican population did not grow, but actually lost population, was New York State during the 1990s. During this decade New York ’s Puerto Rican population declined by three percent.

Puerto Rican population growth was fastest in states that have not been locations of traditional settlement. Fast Puerto Rican growth took place in states such as Nevada, Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia. Puerto Ricans grew in these mostly Sunbelt states at rates that fluctuated between 300 percent and 400 percent between 1980 and 2000. The ten fastest growing counties in the survey were located in Florida (eight) and Pennsylvania (two). Puerto Rican growth was slowest in states of traditional settlement, such as New York , New Jersey , Illinois or Hawaii. The slowest growth counties were also located largely in these states.

Despite slowed (or negative) growth, Puerto Ricans continue to be concentrated in Northeastern states such as New York , New Jersey , Pennsylvania , Massachusetts and Connecticut. Florida is the exception and has positioned itself as the new epicenter of Puerto Rican settlement in the United States. Fifteen percent of the Puerto Rican population in the United States in 2000 was settled in Florida, making the second most Puerto Rican state, after New York (with 30 percent).

Some of the major policy findings of Puerto Rican segregation include:

Forty-five percent of Puerto Ricans lived in counties with very high segregation in relation to non-Hispanic whites (as measured by the index of dissimilarity) in 2000. Twelve percent of Puerto Ricans lived in counties of moderate segregation, while only one percent lived in counties with low segregation. High segregation tended to take place in counties of old settlement, largely in the Northeast and the Midwest . Low segregation counties tended to be those counties of new settlement in the Southeast.

Between 1990 and 2000, segregation from non-Hispanic whites tended to diminish in counties of old settlement with very high as well as moderate dissimilarity scores — a positive development. However, between decades, segregation tended to increase in counties of new settlement where segregation from non-Hispanic whites was low or moderate. Segregation is following Puerto Ricans where they are settling anew - a very worrisome trend.

In relation to African Americans, Puerto Rican segregation was very high in 11 counties in 2000, with dissimilarities scores at times exceeding those for non-Hispanic whites. However, these very high segregation counties only represented counties of settlement for 18 percent of the Puerto Rican population. Dissimilarity was moderate in 23 counties, where 21 percent of Puerto Ricans lived, and it was low in 13 counties, where four percent of Puerto Ricans lived. Between decades, dissimilarity between African Americans and Puerto Ricans increased in nine counties, while it diminished in 54 counties.

Expectedly, Puerto Ricans were not very segregated from other Latinos in the United States in 2000. At most, Puerto Ricans had moderately high dissimilarity scores in one county, while scores were moderate in another seven. These counties with moderate segregation tended to be old settlement counties for Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans lived in relative low separation from other Latinos in two-thirds of the counties surveyed. Dissimilarity increased in 19 counties between 1990 and 2000.

“There are counties where Puerto Ricans are seeing increases in residential
segregation,” said Vargas-Ramos. “That’s a somewhat alarming trend. Segregation can be positive at times by allowing the creation of continuous districts and possibly achieving some political power. It also provides ethnic enclaves and to some extent cultural production.”

However, the Centro researcher said he believes the negatives outweigh the positives. “Given history, highly segregated miajority-minority neighborhoods they tend to receive worse resources from government or private resources; that's why there is reason for concern,” he said.

In placing the report in context, Dr. Anthony De Jesús, Interim Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, states that “while other analyses of Puerto Ricans demographic trends have focused on the decreasing numbers of Puerto Ricans in New York City and migration to the sunbelt, Dr. Vargas-Ramos' analysis provides very specific state and county level data, which can be extremely useful to policy makers, planners and advocates at these levels. In addition, comparisons with other racial and ethnic groups reflect an uncommon level of detail in the research on Puerto Ricans and reveals important differences in segregations between White, Blacks and other Latinos.
In a broader perspective, Dr. De Jesús, adds, “this Centro report demonstrates that Puerto Rican population growth parallels that of Latinos overall, strongly suggesting that Puerto Ricans contribute significantly to the overall Latino growth.”


Note: PRSUN TV will feature this issue on an upcoming show.