The second half the twentieth century led the way to a series of demographic events that had repercussions on the demographic dynamics in Puerto Rico. A considerable decrease in fertility, low levels of mortality and several migratory waves are among the main demographic tendencies observed. As a consequence of these changes, certain demographic phenomena have come about: increases in life expectancy, the aging of population, and an imbalance among the sexes.
The country”s population showed an increase in absolute figures throughout the twentieth century. According to projections, this tendency will continue, reaching a figure of 4.1 million inhabitants in 2020. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the country only had 953,243 inhabitants. Ninety years later this figure increased to 3,522,037, and the census of the year 2000 indicated a population of 3,808,610 inhabitants. However, in relative terms, the upward tendency observed at the beginning of the 21st century took a completely different direction beginning in the 1950s. This tendency was mainly due to the high number of emigrants who moved to the United States. After the reduction of the migratory waves, there was an increase in growth rates. During the 1990s there was an increase of 286,573 inhabitants. This tendency to descend is expected to continue in coming years.
The population growth in the 1990s was not uniform in the 78 municipalities of the island. Several registered negative growth rates. Six municipalities decreased in population between 1990 and 2000: Cataño (-1.39%), Mayagüez (-0.19%), Ponce (-0.17%), Adjuntas (0.16%), Comerío (-0.13%) and San Juan (-0.08). The largest growth rates were observed in Toa Alta (3.78%), Florida (3.5990, Gurabo (2.49%) and Trujillo alto (2.17%).
Puerto Rico has a considerable amount of inhabitants per square mile. In 1950, the island had 645.1 inhabitants per square mile, reaching a value of 1,112 in the year 2000, and it is believed that it will come close to 1,200 in the year 2020. San Juan is first in population density, with 9,087 people per square mile. The island has an uneven distribution of its inhabitants; 43% live in 10 of the 78 municipalities, including San Juan and nearby areas.
While migration has presented marked fluctuations, natural growth (the difference between births and deaths) began to decrease significantly in the 1960s. Births have shown a descending tendency during this period. Mortality, on the other hand, has remained stationary at a relatively low level.
Women”s fertility began to decrease during the 1960s. The total fertility rate (TFR) makes reference to the average of children per woman at the end of her reproductive period. The TFR was 4.8 in 1960; by 1980 it had descended to 2.7. In the year 2000, this indicator reached 2.04 and it is projected that by 2025 it will be at 1.8. This indicates that by the year 2000 the country had reached the substitution level, where the number of children per woman substitutes, in demographic terms, the parents responsible for these births. Puerto Rico now has low levels of fertility and projections anticipate that the population will continue to decrease.
Mortality in Puerto Rico has had astonishing descents during the twentieth century. The island initially had a rate of approximately 28 deaths for every thousand inhabitants. In the period between 1945 and 1949, this decreased almost by half (12.4). By the first five years of the 1950s, the rate of mortality had descended to 9; since then, it has been stable, with minimum fluctuations. In 2005 the mortality rate was of 7.0. The island now has a low death rate. This, in turn, has brought longevity to the population.
The marked decrease in mortality has been radically influenced by the pattern of causes of death. The island has gone from infectious and parasitic causes of death to chronic and degenerative causes. The main causes of death in Puerto Rico in the year 2003 were: heart related illness (17.9%), cancer (17.1%), mellitus diabetes (9.0%), hypertension (4.4%) and lung illnesses (4.3%).
There has been a reduction in internal migration or population movements within the island. On the other hand, there are other immigration patterns. One of the most relevant is the considerable increase in Dominican immigration. According to the census of the year 2000, 357,390 residents had been born outside the island. Of these, 66% had been born in the United States, 18% in the Dominican Republic, and 6% in Cuba. One out of every 10 people that live in Puerto Rico today was born elsewhere.
The main ethnic groups on the island differ considerably in their socio-demographic characteristics. The observed differences place these groups in unequal social strata; in general, Cubans occupy positions of social and economic advantage. Dominicans, in turn, occupy the most disadvantaged positions. In this group, there is female predominance (56%); and nearly three-fourths of the group does not have a high school degree. On the other hand, this group, when compared to American and Cuban residents, show large proportions of separated (5.29%) and divorced (11.7%) couples and a high percentage of poverty (45.5%).
As a consequence of the decrease in the mortality rate, an increase has been observed in the expectation of life. In 1960, life expectancy was 69 years; by the year 2000 it increased to 75 and in 2005 it reached 77. It is projected that in the year 2025, Puerto Ricans will live an average of 81 years. Women have always had longer life expectancies than man. In 2005 women lived an average of eight years more than her male counterpart.
The most relevant components of demographic analysis are age and sex. The age structure of the Puerto Rican population has transformed from a young one to a rapidly aging one. Between 1990 and 2000, the population of 15 years of age or less decreased by 51,851 people, while the population 65 years and older increased by 84,253. In the year 2000, nearly 24% of the population was less than 15 years old, that is to say, one of every four people belonged to this group. Meanwhile 43.6% was between the ages of 15 and 44. However, the groups between 45 and 64, and 65 or more, showed a rising proportion. In the year 2000, 21.4% of the population was between the ages of 45 and 64 and 11.2% was 65 and older. The average age in the year 2000 was 32.1. This shows that the country”s age structure is relatively old. It is projected that by the year 2020, the average age will be 40.6. Of the population 65 years and older, 30% lives in four municipalities: San Juan, Carolina, Guaynabo, and Bayamón.
It is important to consider the longevity within the group of 65 years or older. The index of longevity (the population of 65 or older that is 75 or older) indicates that there is aging within the elder population. In 1990, this index was 41.5%; in 2000 it was 43.3%. It is expected that by 2025 the figure will reach 46.9%. Another transcendental segment of the population is the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. This group represents slightly less than a million people (939,552) and 24% of the island”s population. In the year 2011, the group born at the beginning of the period of baby boomers will be entering the 65 year-old group. One of the elements to consider is that they will be more educated and healthier than the previous generation.
The composition of the population in terms of sex depends on the biological fact that there are more masculine births. According to the Census of 2000, 51.9% of the Puerto Rican population was feminine. In 1950, the island had a proportion of 101 men for every 100 women. Since then, however, this indicator began to decrease until it reached 92.8 in the year 2000. It is projected that by the year 2025, it will be 91.9. This indicator varies with age. At the moment of birth, this indicator is 105.4 men for every 100 women; the masculine predominance begins to decrease and the relative increase of women is noticeable in the 20 to 24 age group. In the population of 65 years or older, this indicator decreased to 78.3 in the year 2000. From the time of birth, the probability of death is higher for the male population. External deaths (accidents, homicides, and suicides) and other risks related to lifestyles of the male population account for a considerable proportion of mortality, particularly in productive ages.
Puerto Rico has definitely experienced extraordinary demographic changes. The following elements stand out: the population”s slow growth, its high density, low levels of birth and mortality, important migratory waves, the population”s aging, and increase in life expectancy. All these events are the result of a historical, political, social, and economic framework that has provoked demographic changes. More important is the restlessness that can arise regarding the demographic future of our island. What effect will the slow population growth have? Are we planning a more intensive use of the land, especially in urbanized municipalities? What are the consequences of high population densities? Will fertility continue to decrease? Can this tendency be reverted? What social and economic impact do migratory waves have? What implications do the current patterns of mortality and aging have on health topics? Has the increase in life expectancy lead to better quality of life? At the moment, it is important to point out those past tendencies, as well as our current situation, have long-term repercussions and reinforce the need for better economic and social planning.
Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: January 16, 2008.
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