Friday, October 10, 2008

Puerto Rican Boom in Florida

By: Phillip Arroyo

On this edition of Puerto Rico Democrat Corner, we will take an in depth glimpse of the fastest growing Puerto Rican population in the continental United States.

 Although Puerto Ricans still concentrate in the state of New York, their proportion decreased from nearly three-fourths of the total in 1960 to less than one-third in 2000.

 For the first time ever, the number of Puerto Ricans in New York declined in the 1990s.

 Correspondingly, the proportion of Puerto Ricans has increased in other states, especially in Florida.

 During the 1990s, Florida displaced New Jersey as the second largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland (after New York).

 Florida’s Puerto Rican population grew from slightly more than 2 percent of all stateside Puerto Ricans in 1960 to more than 14 percent in the year 2000.

 The number of Puerto Rican residents in Florida rose from 482,027 in 2000 to 571,755 persons in 2003.

 Within Florida, Puerto Ricans have settled in three main regions.

 In 2003, more than 206,000 persons of Puerto Rican origin lived in the Central Florida, particularly in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Seminole, and Polk counties.

 A secondary concentration is found in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, with about 155,000 Puerto Ricans.

 A third cluster has emerged around the Tampa Bay area, especially in Hillsborough County, with almost 68,000 Puerto Ricans.

History of Puerto Ricans in Florida

 The earliest recorded movement of Puerto Ricans to Florida consisted of a small number of agricultural business owners who settled in the Miami area in the 1940s.

 The first large-scale movement of Puerto Ricans to Florida took place in the 1950s under the contract farm worker program sponsored by the Migration Division of Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor.

 By then, the class composition of Puerto Rican migration to South Florida had shifted predominantly toward the working class.

 During the 1970s, Puerto Rican government officials negotiated contracts for hundreds of seasonal workers with sugar growers in Florida.

Puerto Rican Education in Florida

 Nearly three-fourths of Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area had completed a high school education.

 Contrary to popular stereotypes, U.S.-born Puerto Ricans tend to be better educated than those born on the Island.

Employment and Economical Data
 More than half of all Puerto Ricans in Central Florida were employed in administrative support, sales, professional, technical, and managerial occupations.

 Puerto Ricans in Central Florida concentrate overwhelmingly in trade and services, particularly in retail trade, arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, food services, education, health, and social services.

 In 1999, 33.3 percent of all Puerto Rican families in Central Florida earned more than $50,000 a year.

 The median family income of Puerto Ricans in Central Florida ($33,500) was more than double that of residents of Puerto Rico ($16,543).

 In 1997, Puerto Ricans in the Orlando metropolitan area owned 2,429 businesses, primarily in the service industry.

 This economic boom has attracted many Island-based companies to the area.

 Despite their achievements, Puerto Ricans have not attained socioeconomic parity with other major ethnic groups in Central Florida.

Political Preference
 Puerto Ricans in Central Florida have become a swing vote that could decide local, state, and even presidential elections.

 Most Puerto Ricans in the United States have traditionally voted for the Democratic Party.

 In 2004, Puerto Ricans in Florida supported Senator John Kerry over President George W. Bush by a margin of two to one.

 The Puerto Rican population boom has not yet translated into proportional representation in state politics.

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