This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

How Will The Hurricanes Reshape Florida's Demographics? UPDATED

Many thanks to Rubén Rumbaut for pointing me to a story in the NYTimes that ponders what an exodus from Puerto Rico might do for (or to) Florida. The focus of the article is on politics because Puerto Ricans tend to be Democrats while the other major Hispanic group in the state--Cubans--tend to be Republicans.
Every day dozens of Puerto Ricans straggle into the Orlando area, fleeing their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In the months to come, officials here said, that number could surge to more than 100,000.
And those numbers could remake politics in Florida, a state where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less.
There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus.
The single biggest group of Florida-based Puerto Ricans are in the Orlando area, although there is also a sizable number in Miami. So, this could have a clear impact on local politics and on state politics, and the latter could potentially influence national politics. And, of course, since Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, the effect is immediate--they just have to register to vote and their influence will be felt in the next election. 

Note that New York currently has the largest population of Puerto Ricans of any state, with Florida second. However, New York is more solidly Democratic, while Florida is a swing state, so migration to Florida is politically more consequential.

Earlier I suggested the possibility that hurricanes in Florida could discourage the migration of retirees from the north into Florida. The older population in Florida seems to lean slightly more towards Republicans than Democrats, so the changing demography of the older population--were it to happen--could also make at least a small difference in state politics.

UPDATE: CNN just today ran a story with more details about the potential demographic and political impact of the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
In the wish lists of Democratic strategists, one imagines the arrival of tens of thousands of Democratic-leaning voters to Florida, seemingly overnight, ranks pretty high.
Two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, new data suggests that's exactly what's happened.

Figures on school enrollment provided to CNN from the Florida Department of Education suggest that well over 50,000 Puerto Ricans will have moved to Florida and made it their residence heading into the midterm election next year.
"The demographic change to Florida has the potential to affect Federal and state elections," said Michael McDonald, professor of political science at the University of Florida, who maintains the United States Election Project. When the 2020 Census is released, continued population growth in the areas where Puerto Ricans live will likely mean more districts at the state and Congressional levels are drawn favorably for Democrats, he added.
President Trump and the Republican Party in general may wish they had done more to make Puerto Rico livable after the hurricane...

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