Puerto Rico
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  1. 1. Source: US Bureau of the Census, decennial Census of Population.
  2. 2. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population; land area data from the U.S. Census Bureau's geographic database (TIGER® database) for Census 2000.
  3. 3. Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2009 (1-year estimates)
  4. 4. Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2007-09 (3-year estimates)
  5. 5. Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2006-08 (3-year estimates)

San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo, Ponce-Yauco-Coamo, and Mayagüez-San Germán-Cabo Rojo, Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastián and Guayama Areas1

The commonwealth of Puerto Rico is part of the Second Federal Reserve District (which also comprises New York, northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Puerto Rico's population was 3.73 million in 2010, based on the latest Census, down 2.2 percent from roughly 3.8 million in 2000. This was the first 10-year decline in the commonwealth's population on record (going back more than a century). Estimates up through 2013 show the Island’s population declining further. Population density is relatively high at 1,088 people per square mile, which is nearly 15 times the U.S. average, and roughly on par with New Jersey (the densest state on the mainland). Puerto Rico is composed of 78 municipios, which are comparable in size to mainland cities or townships and constitute the largest municipal sub-division of the island. The Commonwealth also comprises a number of small adjacent islands, the largest of which are Mona, Vieques, and Culebra.

Puerto Rico includes eight metropolitan areas, as defined by the Census Bureau. Each of these is defined as a cluster of (one or more) adjacent municipios. In this profile, six of the eight metro areas and three of the micropolitan areas are included in the three combined statistical areas. The areas profiled here, together, include more than 95 percent of the island's population, and an even larger share of economic activity. The extensive San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo combined metropolitan area—which covers close to half of the island's land area and slightly over half of all municipios—is home to more than two-thirds of its population, and more than three in four jobs. The Ponce-Yauco-Coamo area accounts for another 11 percent of the population, and the Aguadila-Isabela-San Sebastián and Mayagüez -San Germán-Cabo Rojo areas another 7-8 percent each. Guayama accounts for slightly over 2 percent of the population.

The island's population is less affluent than the population of any state on the U.S. mainland, as measured by median household income, which was roughly $18,300, or more than 60 percent below the mainland (U.S.) median in 2009. However, the educational attainment of Puerto Rico's adult population is only moderately below the mainland average: 21 percent of adults over 25 hold college degrees, compared with 27 percent on the mainland. Notably, 31 percent of young adult women (age 25-44) hold college degrees, which is roughly on par with the US average. The overwhelming majority of the island's population is of Hispanic origin, and this holds across all the metro areas and municipios. There is extensive migration between Puerto Rico and the mainland, though substantially more people emigrate from the island to the mainland than vice versa. For example, based on the 2000 Census (latest detailed data available), 243,000 people migrated from the island to the U.S. mainland, while 113,000 migrated from the mainland to Puerto Rico. [Given the island's population decline between 2000 and 2010, it is likely that these trends intensified during the past decade.] Interestingly, while New York State was the top-ranked source of in-migrants, Florida was the top-ranked destination for out-migrants. The largest source of non-US migrants to Puerto Rico is the Dominican Republic.

The island's economy is mixed—key industries include pharmaceuticals manufacturing, private education and, to a lesser extent, finance and tourism. Puerto Rico also has a disproportionately large public sector, accounting for roughly 30 percent of total payroll employment and a third of total wage and salary earnings—roughly ten times the corresponding proportions on the mainland. One noteworthy feature of the island's labor market is a chronically low labor force participation rate, particularly in recent years.

After registering moderately strong growth in the first half of the last decade, Puerto Rico's economy entered a downturn in 2005, though the two week long government shutdown in the first half of May 2006 is often viewed as the point at which the economy took a noticeable turn for the worse. During the island's five-year downturn, total employment fell by nearly 140,000 or roughly 13 percent.

San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo Combined Metropolitan Area

By any measure, this is, by far, Puerto Rico's largest metropolitan area. Based on the 2010 Census, its resident population was close to 2.6 million, or more than two-thirds of the island's population. Moreover, the population within the area is highly concentrated in and around its largest urban center: San Juan proper has a population of roughly 395,000, but when the adjacent municipios of Guayanabo and Bayamón (to the west) and Carolina and Trujillo Alto (to the east and south) are included, the population swells to more than 950,000. While San Juan would be considered the primary hub, these nearby counties are significant in both population density and business activity; for example, San Juan's major airport is in Carolina. Overall, population density is roughly 8,500 persons per square mile in San Juan Municipio, and slightly over 4,000 in the adjacent municipios, but closer to the island-wide figure of 1,088 in the rest of the metro area. As in the rest of the island, under 2 percent of the population is non-Hispanic; however, there is a sizable minority of Dominicans, which account for roughly 7 percent of the population in San Juan proper and 2-3 percent in the nearby areas.

Caguas, nestled in the mountains south of San Juan, has a population of 143,000, while the Fajardo metropolitan division, at the northeast corner of the island, consists of 3 municipios (Fajardo, Luquillo, and Ceiba) and is home to some 71,000 residents. Fajardo was once home to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, which closed in 2004 and was subsequently converted into a civilian-use airport in 2008. This part of Puerto Rico serves as a gateway to the islands of Culebra, which has been a popular tourist destination, and Vieques, where tourism has begun to develop following the departure of the U.S Navy in 2003. Neither of these islands is part of any metropolitan area.

Overall, the broader metro area—particularly the urbanized San Juan area—tends to be more educated and more affluent than the rest of the island. Median household income was estimated at $20,420 in 2009; this is less than half the figure for the U.S. mainland but 10 percent higher than for Puerto Rico as a whole. In the urban San Juan area, median income runs noticeably higher: $22,220 in San Juan proper and higher still in the adjacent municipios, led by Guaynabo, at $38,490.

Educational attainment is relatively high in this metro area: overall, over 22 percent of adults over 25 hold a college degree, compared with 21 percent island-wide and only marginally below the mainland U.S. average. Moreover, the proportions are considerably higher in the urban municipios: most notably, 32 percent in San Juan, 30 percent in Trujillo Alto, and a striking 41 percent in Guaynabo.

As is the case with income, home values vary considerably across municipios: for the metro area overall, the median value of owner-occupied homes was estimated at $126,000 (based on data for 2007-09), but these medians ranged from $214,000 in Guaynabo to around $100,000 in some of the outlying municipios. The median value in the San Juan municipio was estimated at $170,000.

The metro area's economy is fairly diversified, though the municipio of San Juan has a substantial concentration of financial firms, which account for 11 percent of employment and 18 percent of total wage and salary earnings—more than double the respective percentages on the U.S. mainland.

Ponce-Yauco-Coamo Combined Metropolitan Area

This is Puerto Rico's second largest metro area and comprises a good part of its southern shore. Based on the 2010 Census, its resident population was slightly over 445,000, representing just 12 percent of the island's population. Ponce, the island's largest city (municipio) outside the San Juan area, is home to roughly 166,000 residents, while the metro area's other hubs (Yauco and Coamo) each house roughly 40,000 residents. Ponce is home to Puerto Rico's major seaport, Port of the Americas, which is currently in the process of being expanded to an international shipping hub. The seaport is a major driver of the local economy.

This area's residents are somewhat less affluent than the island's average, and their educational profile is a bit lower as well: median household income is $15,000, versus just over $18,300 for the commonwealth as a whole; and one in five adults over 25 holds a college degree, slightly below the island's average. Like income, home values tend to be quite a bit lower than in the San Juan area: based on data for 2007-09, the median home value was $93,000.

Mayagüez-San Germán-Cabo Rojo Combined Metropolitan Area

This metro area, located in the southwestern corner of the island, has a population of 243,800, based on the 2010 census. Mayagüez is the area's largest city, with a population of 89,000, followed by Cabo Rojo, with 51,000 residents, and San Germán with 36,000. For the area as a whole, median household income is roughly $15,250—well below the island-wide figure. Similarly a below-average 18 percent of adults hold college degrees. Home values are also considerably lower than the island-wide level. This area has a relatively high concentration of manufacturing—particularly chemicals (pharmaceuticals) and apparel.

Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastián

This is Puerto Rico's third largest metro area, located in the northwestern corner of the island. Its population of 306,000 (2010 Census) is considerably less affluent and less well educated, on average, than that of the island as a whole. Its largest city, Aguadilla, has a population of roughly 61,000, while Isabella and San Sebastián house close to 46,000 and 42,000 residents, respectively. Up until the early 1970s, Aguadilla was the site of a major U.S. air force base (Ramey). The area contains some light industry, but tourism appears to be the most highly concentrated industry—the area's beaches represent a destination for many visitors. Like income, the median home value in the metro area ($100,000) is substantially below island-wide level, though the median is $113,000 in Aguadilla itself, which is only slightly below average.


Located in the southeastern portion of Puerto Rico, this metro area is by far the smallest. Its population of just 84,000, based on the 2010 Census, is virtually unchanged from its 2000 level—the only metro area not to lose population during the decade. Its population density of 421 residents per square mile, is the lowest on the island. The city of Guayama has a population of 44,000. Despite the fact that it is a small and somewhat isolated economy, metropolitan Guayama's median household income is slightly over $16,000—on par with the island as a whole and higher than for any other metro area except for San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo. Based on data from 2007-09, the median home value was roughly $86,000, and well below the island-wide figure. Fewer than 17 percent of residents hold college degrees—below the island-wide average. Manufacturing accounts for roughly 20 percent of jobs, with most of those in pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

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