2020 Census Overcounted 174,000 People in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico - Census - Population

Image via AP Photo/Carlos Giusti. file.

By Mivette Vega

August 18, 2022

This error could impact the allocation of federal funds to the island.

The Census Bureau overcounted the population of Puerto Rico by 5.7% or 174,000 people in its 2020 count.

The information was revealed on Tuesday by the agency, which made a post-enumeration survey to measure the accuracy of the census.

RELATED: Latinos Were Undercounted in the Census. Here’s Why It Matters.

In April 2021, the Census Bureau announced Puerto Rico’s population fell 11.8% to nearly 3.3 million over the past decade. With the new data, Puerto Rico’s total population may be closer to 3.1 million.

The main impact this result can have on the island is in the allocation of federal funds. The fewer people, the less aid Puerto Rico receives.

Demographer Judith Rodríguez explained to El Nuevo Día that the loss of a fifth of the population in a short time is worrying. She gave as an example that between 2002 and 2020 the island lost 700,000 residents. But most of that loss happened between 2010 and 2020, when it lost 614,000.

According to her knowledge, she estimates that the population of 2030 could be reduced to 2.7 million, something very important taking into account the economic difficulties of the island.

“If things get worse, what we are going to have is a ghost island. There is no level of awareness of what is happening, and this can affect the allocation of federal funds. The census is the starting point for better decision-making,” Rodríguez told El Nuevo Día.

The demographer said that other areas that will be affected by the new figure are production and the provision of services.

“That is going to have economic implications on the island that can lead to business closures, closures of types of services, and that we have a greater loss of professionals,” she said.

On the other hand, the census presented the difference in results as an opportunity to inform improvements in the 2030 census.

RELATED: The 2020 Census Could Decide Puerto Rico’s Future

Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press that the statistical agency is planning to start its outreach efforts with hard-to-reach communities earlier, rather than just before the count, and it may start door-knocking efforts sooner than in the past. Santos also addressed a backlash against a controversial confidentiality method in the wide-ranging interview.

“We are looking to restore trust on a continuous basis, not just a couple of years before a decennial census,” Santos said.

Associated Press contributed to this story.



  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.



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