Poverty levels

While the overall poverty level in PR is around 45%, the numbers are different from town to town.
I was pleasantly surprise that Ceiba for example has a poverty level of only 38%.
Check out this list, see what the numbers show for your town

34% for my town, San Juan, although I would suspect VSJ is lower, as the cost of living is higher.

Rio Grande has the same, 38%.  The numbers in the report are from 6 years ago though, so  I suspect the numbers have increased since then. Hopefully things will turn around and move in a better direction.

If I had a very low income, I would prefer to be in a warm climate like Puerto Rico as opposed to a place where there are cold winters.  I know some folks (I will not  name them for their privacy)  who fall under the poverty category, but are living comfortably. 
Also, my opinion is that there is a a large underground economy here.  Paying cash to workmen is common.
Low-income individuals don't seem to be stigmatized here.  A commonly held trait that I see in my social transactions is respect and kindness.     
Yes, it is a concern and yet, it is not the end of the world.

Yes, the shadow economy is alive and well and pays zero taxes. However legal businesses are now required to use electronic payments and cash and can no longer insist on cash only. Business under the table will continue to exist.
A lot of workers are payed the minimum wage and less under the table since they don't have to file the shadow income. If you participate, make sure it is worth it and not overpay.
Middle class in PR makes less than in the states, so pretty much most people are poor by US standards.
Servers get around 4.25 above board plus tips.
If you need somebody to clean your place talk to locals, don't use an agency or you will pay thu the nose. A housewife would likely accept the work to help supplement the home income.

My doctor at Auxilio Mutuo takes ONLY cash, many material providers for the construction of our home only accepted cash, it's going to take a while for that to change.  The government has bounced checks and defaulted on its bills ... who can blame the rest of the island for not wanting to get stiffed.

Great point Kim

I recently hired a licensed plumber to do some work in my apartment. He did a great job at a very reasonable price and was paid in cash. He had to redo much of what had been previously done, and completely botched, by whomever the previous homeowner had hired.

ReyP :

I was pleasantly surprise that Ceiba for example has a poverty level of only 38%.

Perhaps the latest default will help the situation for the locals.
Seeing 'only' 38% below the poverty line as a good thing must mean the situation is pretty grim.
At least the locals will get paid before a bunch of bankers, so that's probably a little good news.

The reason for my positive surprice is that Ceiba was heavily affected by the closing of the Rosevelt Road Navy base. Lots of people lost their jobs, business were also affected when all those people left or end up unemployed. Given that the average of the island show a poverty level of 45%, then numers of 38% for Ceiba shows that the town has recovered quite a bit since the closure.
There are plans but no commited investors to repurpose that land and build hotels, housing and multiple businesses but no money yet, these actions would help the local comunities and other towns to grow some more, there are even some talk about building a bridge to Vieques and Culebra but I will probably die before that happens. The money is not there because investors have not yet commited to any of it. But if it happend, it will help the town and i just purchased a 1.65 acre lot in the town so I would like to see it grow in the future, hopefully Within the next 15 years.

So yea, 38% is Much better than the average 45% or 62% of some of the other towns.

One can only hope they manage to pull out of their problems and poverty fades into history, but the history of the islands is not good and history tends to shape the future.
Tossed between colonial masters and dodgy reasons for wars will shape how a country grows, even after so many years.

No crystal ball, just my opinion

People have been too complacent over too many years. It reminds me of the joke about how to boil a frog. Put it on a pot with cold water and raise the temperature slowly. Soon the frog will acclimate to the warm and accept it, a little later it will be uncomfortable again but will get used to the pain and adapt to it, but sooner or later it will be too hot to survive, that is how you boil a frog. Every time PR is in trouble it adapts to the new pain level, accepts it and moves on. Never fighting the root cause or jumping out of the pot.

Soon they will have to make a decision, they have no choice, either statehood or independence. The previous ELA mask is gone, we have no special relationship with the US, PR was a colony in 1889 and remains a colony today. So all in or independent are the only real choices. While a lot of people would prefer independence to retain their language and culture, they also do not want to loose the birthright of US citizenship (have your cake and eat it too). I am afraid the US will soon make it clear that to be citizens they have to become a state or remain a colony. If they want anything else they will loose citizenship. Yet remaining a colony is no longer possible, the UN is involved and the US has stated that PR has no sovereignty. The wheels to end the colony are in motion.

In my opinion the US congress is very reluctant today to accept PR as a state even if the entire 100% population votes for it. So in my opinion within the next 15-20 years PR will have no choice but become independent or officially ask Spain to take over which likely only has less than 10% chance of occurring, Spain has it’s own problems.

PR went to the UN asking it to help them transition out of a colonial state, that leaves them two choices, statehood or independence. So it has to make a choice soon. Remember the saying, be careful with what you ask for, you just may get it?

Either way, high poverty is here to stay until PR finds a way to significantly grow the economy consistently for many years. PR also has to develop a non socialistic mentality of always helping the poor and instead have the poor pull its own weigh and end the give me mentality. Otherwise the poor population continues to grow to the point that there is no way the middle class can continue to subsidize them. After a while we can not afford it.
So..... A lot of changes are coming, the next 15 years will be critical.

PS. for americans living in PR, they should not worry, even if independent, PR will choose to have good relationship with the US, so your stay in PR and properties are safe. PR will probably provide you with dual citizenship to those who want it. As to native Puerto Ricans that are already US citizens, we will likely loose it. While not desired by most, we have to be realistic that the only way we will keep it is to become a state and become assimilated, yet is not likely congress will accept that PR becomes a state. Poverty does not end with statehood, it may reduce it some, but not eliminate it, we have to do the right things like plan and save and change jobs to actually reduce it.

Just my opinion

Independence is never going to happen. The PIP (independence party) hardly has support among the population, around 5%.
If there will be a referendum that offers the choice between statehood and independence I predict that statehood will win  with at least 85%.
Thing is that we here on the island cannot decide about our future. Congress in DC is the body that has that power (and the president will have to sign).
I personally don't see congress taking a decision anytime soon.

Poverty is relative. Like mentioned by others the shadow economy is substantial and many people who officially are under the poverty level have ways to make some (a lot) extra and get paid in cash. As long as the shopping malls are doing as good as they still do and as long as roadside watering holes are filled with locals but mainly in the weekends (on weekdays we're working :) ), things aren't so bad (economically) in PR.

I agree with Gary. If the only alternatives are statehood and independence, I truly think Puerto Ricans would go for statehood. They look around and see all the microcountries in the Caribbean struggling for decades and relying on tourism and expat investment to keep them afloat and will see that statehood has a better benefit to risk ratio.

I'm not taking sides. I just look at the big picture. If PR does opt for statehood, I hope PRs won't have to, or feel the need to, sell out their culture and heritage in exchange. That would truly be a shame, and a loss for both PR, the States, and the world, IMHO.

PR already has two World Heritage sites -- quite a feat for a small island -- especially in the New World. It is VERY important that the history and culture be preserved.

If any referendum comes before the table, I hope that it includes allowing PR to have control over its cultural heritage. It's not about assimilation, but celebrating and preserving what is unique about PR and bringing that into the melting pot of the US.

You all are making extremely good points, but I do not think congress at this time wants PR as a state. Loosing the unique culture and identity is a real risk.

While people may vote for statehood in large numbers, I do not think it is going to happen for another 10 or more years because congress is not ready to accept it.

I think independence rolls will grow during that time but unless they can provide a good plan on how they will survive, PR will remain in limbo for a good while since statehood may not happen for a long time.

In the end there are two choices, and 1 of the two is not up to PR voters.

But I could be wrong

Why is Congress objecting?

Most republicans (in congress) think that when PR would become a state Puerto Rico would vote democratic (since a majority of the "hispanic" people in USA vote democratic) and they're scared for more democratic representatives and senators.
I could be wrong but I think that's the main reason.

I also think that it's not so sure that PR would become a blue state but there's only one way to find: admit PR as a State. :D

Given the alternatives of statehood or independence, I think statehood would benefit PR more than independence, especially since relations with Cuba seem to be opening up.

PR already approved a  referendum in favor of statehood. Doesn't that count for something?

lgustaf :

Given the alternatives of statehood or independence, I think statehood would benefit PR more than independence, especially since relations with Cuba seem to be opening up.

PR already approved a  referendum in favor of statehood. Doesn't that count for something?

I fully agree, statehood would  be the best for this this island.

The referendum wasn't really clear, due to the stupid way it was setup.

Congress legally doesn't have to pay attention to what the people in PR want although my take is they would IF there was to be a referendum with two clear options: Statehood or Independence.
Under the present"commonwealth" status PR basically is a colony and that should change. We have no voting representatives in Congress, we cannot vote in presidential elections but we are US citizens.

My understanding is that congress does not want to make it a state for 6 reasons:
1) it would likely be a democratic state and congress is currently dominated by republicans
2) PR has t's own latin identity and thinks different than the US when it comes to dealing with other Spanish speaking countries (brotherhood) which may cause some policy issues with congress and the president
3) Spanish is going to be an issue, likely making Spanish the official language of the state of Puerto Rico. State #52, DC is likely to become state 51 sooner.
4) PR would be the poorest state of the union, currently Missisipi is the poorest and it is 2 to 3 times richer than PR. Children poverty in missisipi is around 25%, it is around 45% in PR.
5) Little real value to the union, mainlanders can come and go as they please to PR, they can live in PR, they can buy property in PR, they can invest there, what would the average mainlander gain that they dont currently have? Why go thru the expense and headaches of assimilating PR and bring it up to standards if nothing of great value is gained? Why deal with the culture differences when they dont have to?
6) why expand the union? Even DC which seems to want to be a state is getting pushback. Adding a state is a lot of work and a lot of changes in congress ehich dilutes the power of those in charge.

We'll see if and what will happen with this issue. It has been dominating the political debate here in PR for years and this will go on until something will be done.
The present status simply is not right and everybody knows it.

DC wants to become a state, but I think there is more reason for it not to be (it was never intended as such and designed to be a place of neutrality) than for PR. As far as Spanish is concerned, that's just pure political BS, IMHO. There are dozens of countries that have more than one official language or regions within them that do. The reality is: Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in the US, and growing. Accepting that and learning how to deal is something that sooner or later the US will have to do, I personally would like to see both English and Spanish taught as required subjects in  schools 

Mississippi has its own issues, that are far different than PR. Poor education, old-boy conservative, redneck values and many other issues come into play that keep Mississippi from moving forward. I see far more potentential in PR than Mississippi.

As to the best thing for Puerto Rico.......
Anyone in PR that wants full and complete participation as a US citizen can today just move to one of the 50 states. The only thing they really give up is living in the island which is not great if you need money to raise your family.

If they stay in the island and it becomes a state, they will have to pay federal tax, plus PR tax which will be high since PR does things very inefficiently, adopt English as the primary language, pay a lot more for medical services, integrate into the American culture fully or face discrimination, have more commerce regulatory requirements, loose representation on Miss Universe and Olympics, and several other identity and pride issues that I am not going to go into.

I do not think the average Puerto Rican has made a list of the pros and cons yet. So far we have been just listening to half truths from politicians and voting accordingly, which got us into the current mess.

If the vote occurs in January as some want, you are right, people will vote for statehood since they have not made their list, but if the vote at the end of the board timeframe, they may choose differently.

The federal government constantly interferes with the right of the states, so little by little each state is loosing who they are., and soon there will be only the federal government making all important decisions.

I hope the decision does not happen January 2017, I want to have a chance to vote on that.

But it is not likely that PR will be accepted.

Did you noticed that all options stated need to be in accordance with the US constitution? If you are allowing freedom, why are you limiting the freedom? Let the people rule themselves as they wish, is not freedom otherwise.

lgustaf :

As far as Spanish is concerned, that's just pure political BS, IMHO. There are dozens of countries that have more than one official language or regions within them that do. The reality is: Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in the US, and growing. Accepting that and learning how to deal is something that sooner or later the US will have to do, I personally would like to see both English and Spanish taught as required subjects in  schools 

Mississippi has its own issues, that are far different than PR. Poor education, old-boy conservative, redneck values and many other issues come into play that keep Mississippi from moving forward. I see far more potentential in PR than Mississippi.

We are speaking about the US Congress and Puerto Rico.

How many official Languages does the US has (none)? English is not a US official Language,

As to growing spanish population .... We have a long way to go. I would love to be around to see congress conducting business in Spanish We Puerto Ricans better get cracking and start having 10 or 12 kids each, It would be interesting reading the US constitution in Spanish   :D

As to Mississippi, I was not trying to compare their problems with anybody else, I was saying simply that they are the poorest state, yet they are two to 3 times richer than PR and they have about 1 million less people than PR. So why would congress want another poor state ( poorer than Mississippi)?
Just because we ask does not mean we are going to get statehood, at least not for 15-30 years. What about the mean time (remain a colony for an unknown number of years with no hard date as to when we will be accepted)? If PR ask for statehood in 2017 as the PNP wants, will people just sit down and wait another 15-30 years? Would they not feel rejected and seek an alternate solution to the status issue?

Did you read about Miami population being 60% spanish speaking and that English only speakers (15%) cant seem to be able to get jobs there? Imagine that happening in the rest of the US. Imagine the resentment. .

Did you read about London Mayor? - As population changes, the politicians and rules change also.

The Latino population (by that I mean HIspanic) IS growing, especially in California, which not only has the highest percentage of Spanish-speaking individuals in the country, but where Latinos OUTNUMBER Anglos. EVERYTHING official is in English and Spanish, and much that is not official is also. Even where I live in the Atlanta area, Spanish is the unofficial second language and when you go to Home Depot or the super market, all the signs are in both languages..

Demographics are changing. If English-only speakers in Miami are having trouble getting a job, then they should learn Spanish. I think all Americans should - there is nothing that fosters tolerance and acceptance of another culture more than learning its language - not to mention the practicality of doing so.

What "alternate" solution would you suggest? None of the Puerto Ricans I've spoken with truly want to live in a separate, independent country. If Democrats take control of Congress, and Puerto Ricans still want statehood, I think they'll get it.

In a few hundred years there will be one language and 1 single and mandatory religion, it has already started in EU. Spanish and English are on the way out.

I don't agree with you, Rey.

In my opinion the one language thing is never going to happen. In Europe you drive a couple of hundred miles and you don't understand the people.

Even within one language area like the German language area there are so many different dialects. I'm fluent in German but I have a real hard time to understand the dialects in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland.

Right now there are 23 official languages in the EU and the total of languages spoken in Europe is more than 60. You may want to check this site: … -languages
People are proud of their language and will want to keep it. I'm sure that if PR would become a state that Spanish would remain the language on the island. More people would become bilingual but Spanish would stay..

About religion, I don't think that's going to happen either. Look only at the different Christian churches and how they all are sure that their belief is the right belief.
Remember Northern Ireland and the war between Catholics and Protestants.
In the Islamic world Sunnis and Shias are fighting another as well with no end in sight..

Spanish and English on the way out? Are we all going to speak Chinese? Russian? :D

One government, one language one religion, and those that object will be prosecuted. Let's chat about it in 400 years let's see who is right, I plan to be around.

ReyP :

Let's chat about it in 400 years let's see who is right, I plan to be around.

I'll be around, too (but not in this body :D)

By that time my wrinkles will have wrinkles of their own, but I will be there

Language is a moot point as it simply won't matter in not many years.
My phone translates signs in many languages to many other languages (I hold it up to a sign in Indonesia, but it shows it in English),and some communications programs already have real time translators  so one interlocutor speaks in language A, but the other hears in language B.
Star trek did this years ago, but it's entering the real world as we plod through our lives.
We'll all be wearing a little gold badge that does the honours and works as a mobile phone, or maybe have an in ear implant in 20 years or less, making learning or even discussing language something tech people do, but unimportant to the proles.

Hey Fred,
Ever heard of the Babel fish, and know the meaning of 42?
If not check the book Hichhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Babel fish does all the translations for you if you do not mind sticking a fish in your ear.
Either way read the book it is a Cult Classic
While you are at it, may as well check out The Restaurant at the end of the universe, your meal will describe and show you their best cuts while you watch the end of the universe.

Actually, there now is a device, an earpiece you can wear that will translate any language it hears into the language you understand.

The notion that the world will be speaking one language under penalty of persecution is just paranoia.

ReyP :

Hey Fred,

Dude, I'm a fanatic first class who really knows where his towel is.
I have the book, the audio books, the TV series and a picture of the greatest towel writer in the world in my office.
I refuse to have a copy of the remake film because it's rubbish.

"No one is poor, or at least no one who matters".
Now, I need a really strong cup of tea so I can invent a machine.

Here is an interesting article about boomers and retirement, obviously the numbers are for the states. … demic.html

You have the answer. Now reveal the question.

Well in PR they can do ok on 2,000 a month and even less. There are some in PR that live on half of that.

I was surprised to find out that a lot of people my age in the states have very littled saved for their retirement, many under 50k, some dont even own a home or are still paying a mortgage which will eat up a very large part of their income.

It is a shame that many companies lay off their elderly employees in search of 24 year olds newly graduated college grads.  The chances of getting a job after age 50 in the states is very limited. These people have very little to fall on and if they were not high earners, their social security may be only around 800 a month. A shame!

But true, they did not save, but some were counting on pensions which disappeard and they are now out of options. Its a shame.

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