Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Island Paradox

Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s

Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz
Carlos E. Santiago
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 212
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Island Paradox
    Book Description:

    "One of the year's best books on Puerto Rico."-El Nuevo Dia, San Juan

    "[The authors] are highly regarded labor economists who have written extensively and intelligently in the past, and again in this volume, on Puerto Rican migration and labor markets... There isabundant statistical data and careful analysis, some of which challenges the conventional wisdom. Highly recommended." -Choice

    Island Paradoxis the first comprehensive, census-based portrait of social and economic life in Puerto Rico. During its nearly fiftyyears as a U.S. commonwealth, the relationship between Puerto Rico's small, developing economy and the vastly larger, more industrialized United States has triggered profound changes in the island's industry and labor force. Puerto Rico has been deeply affected by the constant flow of its people to and from the mainland, and by the influx of immigrant workers from other nations. Distinguished economists Francisco Rivera-Batiz and Carlos Santiago provide the latest data on the socioeconomic status of Puerto Rico today, and examine current conditions within the context of the major trends of the past two decades.

    Island Paradoxdescribes many improvements in Puerto Rico's standard of living, including rising per-capita income, longer life expectancies, greater educational attainment, and increased job prospects for women. But it also discusses the devastating surge in unemployment. Rapid urbanization and a vanishing agricultural sector have led to severe inequality, as family income has become increasingly dependent on education and geographic location. Although Puerto Rico's close ties to the United States were the major source of the island's economic growth prior to 1970, they have also been at the root of recent hardships. Puerto Rico's trade andbusiness transactions remain predominantly with the United States, but changes in federal tax, social, and budgetary policies, along with international agreements such as NAFTA, now threaten to alter the economic ties between the island and the mainland.

    Island Paradoxreveals the social and family changes that have occurred among Puerto Ricans on the island and the mainland. The significant decline in the island's population growth is traced in part to women's increased pursuit of educational and employment opportunities before marrying. More children are being raised by singleparents, but this stems from a higher divorce rate and not a rise in teenage pregnancy. The widespread circular migration to and from the United States has had strong repercussions for the island's labor markets and social balance, leading to concerns about an island brain drain. The Puerto Rican population in the United States hasbecome increasingly diverse, less regionally concentrated and not, as some have claimed, in danger of becoming an underclass.

    Within a single generation Puerto Rico has experienced social and economic shifts of an unprecedented magnitude.Island Paradoxcharts Puerto Rico's economic fortunes, summarizes the major demographic trends, and identifies the issues that will have the strongest bearings on Puerto Rico's prospects for a successful future.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-473-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz and Carlos E. Santiago
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s
    (pp. 1-21)

    Perhaps nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere do the sharply different economies and societies of Latin America and the United States encounter one another as closely as in Puerto Rico. Halfway between North and South America, this Caribbean island of three and a half million people is literally situated between two worlds. But it is history, culture, and politics—more than geography—that account for Puerto Rico’s present situation.

    Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony from the early sixteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century, by which time it had a Spanish-speaking population of about one million made...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Population Growth and Demographic Changes
    (pp. 22-42)

    The island of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 34 miles wide. In such close quarters, the congestion and agglomeration associated with sustained population growth are a matter of serious concern. Puerto Rico’s population density has increased at an astounding rate, rising from 545 persons per square mile in 1940, to 1,059 persons per square mile in 1993. For comparison, average population density in the mainland United States currently hovers around 10 persons per square mile. No state has a higher population density than Puerto Rico, and only the large U.S. metropolitan areas are more congested.

    The number...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Migration between Puerto Rico and the United States
    (pp. 43-62)

    By any measure, the migration between Puerto Rico and the United States during the last fifty years has been remarkable: 835,000 people emigrated from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States on a net basis between 1940 and 1970 alone. This represents approximatelyhalfof the natural increase of the population of Puerto Rico during this period—that is, for every two persons added to the population of the island, one left to reside in the mainland. This makes Puerto Rico the site of one of the most massive emigration flows of this century.

    The migration of Puerto Ricans to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Socioeconomic Transformation: Income, Poverty, and Education
    (pp. 63-84)

    WhenTimemagazine ran a cover story on Puerto Rico in June 1958, it portrayed the island as a “laboratory of democracy in Latin America” and as a showcase for economic development.Timepraised Governor Luis Muñoz Marín and his economic development strategy, which relied heavily on attracting American investment with the goal of expanding production for export to American markets and was associated with a sharp growth in per capita income. Puerto Rico’s strong economic growth continued unabated in the 1960s and early 1970s. Between 1948 and 1978, the island’s per capita gross national product (GNP), adjusted for inflation,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Labor Market and the Unemployment Crisis
    (pp. 85-109)

    The puerto rican labor market has changed dramatically over the last forty years. In 1950, 35 percent of the 600,000 workers in the labor force was employed in agriculture. By 1990, the workforce of close to one million was mostly employed in other sectors—trade, services, and manufacturing—with only 3.7 percent left in agriculture. This economic restructuring was associated with a period of rapid economic growth that lasted until the early 1970s and reduced unemployment rates from close to 15 percent in 1950, to less than 5 percent in 1970. However, this picture of economic expansion very soon turned...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Immigration and the Population Born outside Puerto Rico
    (pp. 110-125)

    The migration of persons born outside Puerto Rico to the island has boomed over the last thirty years. In 1960, there were 59,316 persons born elsewhere living in Puerto Rico. By 1990, the number had risen to 320,234, or 9.1 percent of the total population. This is a high figure by international standards, reflecting Puerto Rico’s history of attracting persons born outside its borders. The foreign-born population of the United States—often referred to as the land of immigrants—was also around 9 percent in 1990.

    More than two-thirds of the persons residing in Puerto Rico in 1990 who were...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Puerto Rican Population in the United States
    (pp. 126-151)

    It is a widely accepted belief that Puerto Ricans, in contrast to other Hispanic groups, have failed to achieve significant economic progress in the United States, especially in recent years, and that they are at risk of becoming an “underclass.” This suggestion was first made early in the 1960s by Nathan Glazer and Daniel Moynihan inBeyond the Melting Pot. Later studies suggested that the economic situation of Puerto Ricans was deteriorating over time. Tienda (1989, 106) noted that “among Hispanics, between 1970 and 1985 Puerto Ricans experienced a sharp deterioration in economic well-being while Mexicans experienced modest, and Cubans...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Between Two Worlds: Puerto Rico Looks toward the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 152-165)

    In february 1949, Luis Muñoz Marín took office as the first freely elected governor of Puerto Rico. In his inaugural address, Muñoz Marín, who was the main architect of Puerto Rico’s subsequent economic development strategy, likened the task faced by his government to planting seed: “This is the moment when, depending on our actions, the seed can either become a bumper crop or a wasteland of weeds” (Muñoz Marín 1980, 4). What resulted from the seed planted by Muñoz Marín and his government? Did it blossom into a bumper crop or into a field of weeds?

    The 1990 census paints...

  13. Appendix 1: Census Data
    (pp. 166-168)
  14. Appendix 2: Measuring Migration to the United States
    (pp. 169-170)
  15. Appendix 3: Population of Puerto Rico by Municipio
    (pp. 171-173)
  16. Appendix 4: Multivariate Regression Analysis of the Growth and Presence of Puerto Ricans in 25 U.S. SMSAs, 1980–90
    (pp. 174-174)
  17. References
    (pp. 175-186)
  18. Index
    (pp. 187-198)