In September 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico causing 102 billion worth of damages, demolishing the electric grid and severely affecting essential daily services. Disaster recovery continues as of the onset of the second half of 2020. Our research investigates whether the postdisaster population mobility was greater than the long-term out-migration that has followed the economic recession. This paper makes use of longitudinal demographic and economic data spanning Hurricane Maria to give a long-term view of population change in Puerto Rico. First, we examine population and employment trends in relation to hurricanes and significant economic events and find that population change is more responsive to employment shocks than hurricane events. Second, we examine air passenger travel data to estimate net migration between 2010 and 2018. The data reveal a sharp spike in out-migration following the hurricanes as well as elevated in-migration in the first half of 2018. In short, the evidence presented suggests that the struggling economy is the main cause of net out-migration from Puerto Rico, while out-migration in response to the hurricane-related destruction is mostly temporary. Consequently, plans for Puerto Rico’s recovery should focus on stimulating the economy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)