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San Juan photo

The last full US census results, from 2010, showed 3,725,789 people that inhabit the island of Puerto Rico make it one of the most densely populated islands in the world. There are about 1,000 people per square mile, a ratio higher than within any of the 50 states in the United States.

On August 2012, the number of Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland reached a record - 4.9 million. Had these people remained in Puerto Rico, the island would be so densely populated that there would be virtually no room for people to live. Because of the massive migration to the mainland, more Puerto Ricans are said to live in New York City than in San Juan.

On March 27, 2014 the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the island's total population fell from about 3.7 million in 2010 to 3.6 million in 2013. The government stated that more than 450,000 people have left the island in the past decade. The majority are settling in U.S. states including New York and Florida.

On the island, one-third of the population is concentrated in the San Juan-Carolina-Bayamón metropolitan area. The largest city is San Juan, the island's capital. It has a population of 395,326 (2010), making it the 46th largest city in the USA. The second largest city is Bayamón, with 208,116 people and is the 103rd largest city in America. Other major cities include Carolina (176,762), Ponce (166,327) and Caguas (142,893).

What is the Puerto Rican population of the World?
It is estimated that the total Puerto Rican population is over 8.6 million. This number identifies geographic areas with significant Puerto Rican populations, year sources vary.

Race and Ethnic Groups

The people of Puerto Rico represent a cultural and racial mix. When the Spanish forced the Taíno people into slavery, the entire indigenous population was virtually decimated, except for a few Amerindians who escaped into the remote mountains. Eventually they inter-married with the poor Spanish farmers and became known as jíbaros. Because of industrialization and migration to the cities, few jíbaros remain.

Interesting Fact
Puerto Ricans are known for their warm hospitality, often considered very friendly and expressive to strangers. Greetings are often cordial and genuine. When people are first introduced, a handshake is usual, however, close friends and family members always greet you hello or goodbye with a kiss on the cheek or a combination hug and kiss. This happens between female friends and between men and women, but not between male friends.

Puerto Ricans are best known by speaking using lively hand and facial gestures, as hand and body language are important forms of communication.

Besides the slaves imported from Africa (Sudan, Kongo, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leona, and the Gold, Ivory, and Grain coasts), other ethnic groups brought to work on the plantations joined the island's racial mix. Fleeing Simón Bolívar's independence movements in South America, Spanish loyalists fled to Puerto Rico - a fiercely conservative Spanish colony during the early 1800s. French families also flocked here from both Louisiana and Haiti. As changing governments or violent revolutions depressed the economies of Scotland and Ireland, many farmers from those countries also journeyed to Puerto Rico in search of a better life.

When the United States acquired the island in 1898, American influence was added to culture.

During the mid-19th century, labor was needed to build roads, initially, Chinese workers were imported for this task, followed by workers from such countries as Italy, France, Germany, and even Lebanon. American expatriates came to the island after 1898. Long after Spain had lost control of Puerto Rico, Spanish immigrants continued to arrive on the island. The most significant new immigrant population arrived in the 1960s, when thousands of Cubans fled from Fidel Castro's Communist state. The latest arrivals to Puerto Rico have come from the economically depressed Dominican Republic.

The new and the old merged, where two worlds and many culture fused, creating an island of sharp contrasts. Today, this mix of culture can be perceived in the island's architecture, which mixes Spanish colonial with ultra-modern, shown on the abundance of North American-style malls and fast-food restaurants that compete with small, family-run stores and restaurants.

Nationality: Puerto Rican

: a person born, raised, or living in Puerto Rico
: a person whose family is descended from the island of Puerto Rico
: any item deriving it's origin from the island of Puerto Rico
: any item relating to the people of Puerto Rico/Puerto Ricans

Interesting Facts

Criollo (creole) is a word used today by Puerto Ricans to describe things native to the island, such as: music, cuisine, language, arts, people, religion, and other aspects of the island culture.

It is known that Puerto Rican descendants call themselves Puerto Ricans. "I am Puerto Rican, but I wasn't born there."

The term "Nuyorican" is used to identify New Yorkers born in Puerto Rico or of Puerto Rican descent who live in or near New York City. The word Nuyorican derives from a combination of the words "New York" and "Puerto Rican."

Puerto Rico is a territory (Commonwealth) of the United States of America and Puerto Ricans have common citizenship, currency and defense. Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, residents of Puerto Rico pay no federal income tax, nor can they vote in presidential elections. As citizens, Puerto Ricans do not require a work visa (also known as green cards) to live and/or work in the United States.

Puerto Ricans consider themselves American but are fiercely proud of their island and their culture. They don't usually call themselves Americans or "Americanos", but "Puertorriqueños" or "Boricuas." To most Puerto Ricans, "my country" means "Puerto Rico", not the United States. Boricua, derived from the Taíno word Boriken is used to affirm Puerto Ricans devotion to the island's Taíno heritage. The word Boriken translates to "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord". Borikén was the original name used by the Taíno population before the arrival of the Spanish.

Race and Hispanic Origin (July 1, 2017)

White alone: 69.4%
Black or African American alone: 9.1%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone: 0.3%
Asian alone: 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone: 0.0%
Two or More Races: 7.5%
Hispanic or Latino: 98.9%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino: 0.8%

Vital Statistics

Population: 3,337,177 (July 2017 est.)
3,725,789 (2010 U.S. Census) Summary: 1980 to 2006 (PDF) (projections (PDF))

Population Density: 988 density per sq mi/382 persons per sq km (2015)

Puerto Rico's population density is among the world's highest - only Bangladesh, The Maldives, Barbados, Taiwan, South Korea and the city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore are more crowded.

Population Split: Urban 71%; Rural 29%

Country Population Rank: 133rd (Jul 2014 est.)

U.S. Population Rank: 2nd (Jul 2012 est.)

% of World Pop: 0.049% (Jul 2014 est.)

Interesting Fact
The population is 4.9 million, although about another 2 million Puerto Ricans live in the USA.

The Census Bureau publishes estimates of total population and demographic components of change (births, deaths, and migration) for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its 78 municipios (municipalities). A municipio is the government unit that is the primary legal subdivision of Puerto Rico; the Census Bureau treats the municipio as the statistical equivalent of a county.

Population Growth Rate: -1.74% (2017 est.)

Population Doubling Time: 88 years (2002)

Primary Ethnicity: Hispanic

Ethnic Composition:
white 75.8%, black/African American 12.4%, other 8.5% (includes American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, and others), mixed 3.3%
99% of the population is Latino (2010 est.)
The racial composition of Puerto Rico's population has not changed significantly. The first census by the United States in 1899 reported a population of 953,243 inhabitants, 61.8% of them classified as white, 31.9% as mixed, and 6.3% as black.

Total Urban Population: 2,664,000

According to the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, 2.7 million Puerto Ricans reside in the U.S., of which approximately one half are second and third generation, having been born in the mainland.

Net Migration Rate: -16.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)

urban population: 93.5% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: -0.03% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Age Structure:
0-14 years: 15.77% (male 270,656/female 258,073)
15-24 years: 13.71% (male 233,667/female 225,812)
25-54 years: 38.1% (male 607,954/female 669,149)
55-64 years: 12.93% (male 198,720/female 234,713)
65 years and over: 19.48% (male 281,413/female 371,670) (2017 est.)
Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 49.6
youth dependency ratio: 27.9
elderly dependency ratio: 21.7
potential support ratio: 4.6 (2015 est.)
Median Age:
total: 41.5 years
male: 39.5 years
female: 43.2 years (2017 est.)
Sex Ratio:
at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.83 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.75 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Marriage Rate: 9.2 per 1000 persons

Divorce Rate: 4.47 per 1000 persons (2004)


Owner-occupied housing unit rate, 2012-2016: 68.6%

Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2012-2016: $118,600

Median selected monthly owner costs -with a mortgage, 2012-2016: $887

Median selected monthly owner costs -without a mortgage, 2012-2016: $154

Median gross rent, 2012-2016: $460

Families & Living Arrangements

Households, 2012-2016: 1,237,180

Persons per household, 2012-2016: 2.82

Living in same house 1 year ago, percent of persons age 1 year+, 2012-2016: 92.8%

Language other than English spoken at home, percent of persons age 5 years+, 2012-2016: 94.5%

Family Average Size: 3.5 people


Birth Rate: 8.1 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Death Rate: 8.6 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Major causes of death per 100,000 population: (1993)
142.6 heart and cardiovascular disease
95.4 cancers
55.1 diabetes
38.0 cerebrovascular disease
29.2 pneumonia and influenza

Contraceptive Use: 84.1% of women aged 18-44 (2002)

Maternal Mortality Rate: 14 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate:
total: 6.4 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth:
total population: 80.9 years
male: 77.6 years
female: 84.4 years (2017 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 1.22 children born/woman (2017 est.)

Drinking water source:

urban: 93.6% of population
rural: 93.6% of population
total: 93.6% of population
urban: 6.4% of population
rural: 6.4% of population
total: 6.4% of population (2001 est.)

Sanitation facility access:

urban: 99.3% of population
rural: 99.3% of population
total: 99.3% of population
urban: 0.7% of population
rural: 0.7% of population
total: 0.7% of population (2015 est.)

Population with a disability, under age 65 years, percent, 2012-2016: 15.3%

Persons without health insurance, under age 65 years: 7.4%

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 18,422, 68% men, 32% women (2012)
Puerto Rico ranked among the top 10 U.S. states or territories with the highest number of total AIDS cases among residents at the end of 2004.

Puerto Ricans at Old San Juan photo


During the first three hundred years of Spanish rule education in the Island was limited to the teaching of Christian doctrine, arts, and grammar. The first text book published in the island was the "Catecismo de Doctrina Cristiana", which appeared during the 1850's written by Bishop Gil Esteve. Classes were held only in main cities (San Juan, Arecibo, San German and Coamo). Almost the entire population was illiterate. During the revolutionary period (1800-1840), the Spanish Government imposed a rigorous censorship on the colonies. Books were rare, importation was opposed by the authorities, who believed them to be instruments of sedition. This fact explains why, prior to 1840, there was very little printed matter in the Island.

After the American occupation in 1898 education was entirely provided in English with Spanish treated as a special subject. In 1915, under Commissioner of Education Dr. Paul G. Miller direction the method of teaching was changed, establishing Spanish as the medium of instruction in the four lower grades, English in the three higher grades, and both English and Spanish for the middle grades. This method was used until November 1934, when Commissioner José Padín ordered that instruction be given in Spanish in all elementary grades with English taught as a special subject from the first grade.

With the appointment of Dr. José M. Gallardo as Commissioner of Education in June 1937, a new school program was adopted with special stress placed on the teaching of English in accordance with the views of President Roosevelt, expressed in a letter addressed to Dr. Gallardo shortly after his appointment: "It is an indispensable part of American policy that the coming generation of American citizens in Puerto Rico grow up with complete facility in the English tongue. It is the language of our nation. Only through the acquisition of this language will Puerto Rican Americans secure a better understanding of American ideals and principles." Instruction is given in Spanish, with English as a subject.

In July 25, 1952 the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was approved indicting: 1) a public instruction system, free and no segregated and 2) instruction will be free and compulsory.

Today, education is a matter of high priority for Puerto Rico, it is evident in the island's overall literacy rate of 94 percent and its budget for education, approximately 40 percent. Puerto Rico also has one of the highest college education rates in the whole world.

Education is obligatory between 6 to 17 years old. Primary school consists of six grades; the secondary levels is divided into 2 cycles of 3 years each. The school term in public schools starts in August through mid-December and January through late May. As of 2013, there are 1,460 public schools and another 764 private schools throughout the island.

The school system is administered by the Department of Education and has several levels of learning. The language used in the schools is Spanish, however, English is taught from kindergarten to high school as part of the school curriculum. Some private schools provide English programs where all classes are conducted in English except for the Spanish class.

Puerto Rico has more than 50 institutions of higher education, including universities, colleges, community colleges and technical institutes. Puerto Rico has achieved one of the highest college education rates in the world (6th) with 56% of its college-age students attending institutions of higher learning, according to World Bank data.

High school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2012-2016: 73.9%

Bachelor's degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2012-2016: 24.6%

Registered Students by Education Levels: (2007-08 academic year)
Elementary (pre-kindergarten grade 8) ........ 355,115
Secondary (grades 9-12) ........ 148,520
Registered Students by School Groups: (1999-2000 academic year)
Public Schools ....... 612,793
Private Schools ....... 149,000

Schools: 1,532 public schools, 569 private schools and 44 universities. (1999)

Literacy Rate:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.3%
male: 92.8%
female: 93.8% (2015 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 15 years (2014)

Education expenditures: 6.4% of GDP (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 26.6%
male: 28.9%
female: 23.1% (2012)


The Constitution guarantees freedom for all faiths. The major religions are: Catholic (85%), Protestants (8%), non religious (2.3%), and others (3%).

Churches of many denominations can be found throughout the island.

Some islanders ascribe to spiritualism (espiritismo), and others practice Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean belief system brought to Puerto Rico from Cuba. There is also a small Jewish community.

Hispanic - relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent; especially: Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
Latin - relating to the peoples or countries using Romance languages; specifically: of or relating to the peoples or countries of Latin America.


Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2010, 94.9% of people spoke a language other than English at home. The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that only around 30% can speak English very well.

Other Resources

Did You Know?

All the lakes in Puerto Rico are man made.