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Out-migration from and return migration to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: evidence from the consumer credit panel


In this research brief, we contribute to a much-needed, initial, and growing inventory of data on Puerto Rican migration after Hurricane Maria. Using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel, we provide a detailed account of out-migration from and return migration to Puerto Rico in the quarters and years after Hurricane Maria. We show that out-migration from Puerto Rico was and remains elevated after Hurricane Maria, particularly for more vulnerable places with respect to water area and especially substandard housing. We also show that return migration to Puerto Rico by the second quarter of 2019 is low, 12–13%, with those emigrating from relatively more vulnerable places returning to the island at comparably higher levels than those from less vulnerable places. Taken together, our results help to round out a small, but growing body of research on migration after Hurricane Maria and other extreme weather events.

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  1. 1.

    The way that SSNs are issued make the last four digits of each number effectively random. For privacy reasons, the CCP does not contain actual social security numbers. Individuals are instead assigned another unique identification number in the data.

  2. 2.

    This algorithm is proprietary to Equifax and therefore not available to researchers.

  3. 3.

    For privacy reasons, the CCP database contains the census block associated with this address and not the exact address.

  4. 4.

    According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Brevoort et al. 2016), about 10–11% of US adults lack a credit history. This figure is about three times higher and lower in low- and high-income neighborhoods, respectively.

  5. 5.

    For a list of papers using the CCP, see

  6. 6.

    Coastal and riverfront tract polygons usually extend into the water such that the water share of the tract area can be used to identify these two types of tracts.

  7. 7.

    Here and below, we adopt a threshold of p < 0.05.

  8. 8.

    Here and below, we calculate and report the results of two difference-in-differences estimates. The first is uses the previous quarter of 2017-Q2 as the baseline. The second uses 2016-Q3, the quarter from 1 year ago, as the baseline.


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The authors also thank Elizabeth Fussell, Fernando Rivera, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


DeWaard and Johnson acknowledge support from center grant #P2C HD041023 awarded to the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, as well as technical advice from David Van Riper.

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Correspondence to Jack DeWaard.

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DeWaard, J., Johnson, J.E. & Whitaker, S.D. Out-migration from and return migration to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: evidence from the consumer credit panel. Popul Environ 42, 28–42 (2020).

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  • Hurricane Maria
  • Migration
  • Out-migration
  • Return migration
  • Consumer credit panel