Study Highlights Puerto Rican Impact on Economy

On Wednesday, August 14, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development hosted a community meeting at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury where it presented new research on the impact of Puerto Ricans on the Boston economy.

The meeting, which was held in Spanish, opened with an introduction by Marta Rivera, the Chief of Staff for the Mayor’s Office for Health and Human Services.

Yvonne Ortiz, Assistant to Mayor Marty Walsh, presented an informative snapshot based on research by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), the REMI Economic Impact Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the snapshot, Puerto Ricans make up about 5% of the total population of Boston, coming in at 35,000. They hold 14,000 jobs in the city and own 3,600 businesses. Puerto Ricans earn $516 million annually and contribute $26 million in state income taxes.

The summary also showed that Puerto Ricans born in the States were enjoying more success overall than those born in P.R. They are more likely to be proficient in English, possess a Bachelor’s degree, own their home and work full time. However, those born on the island earn an average of $3,000 more per year in median earnings for full-time jobs.

The number of Puerto Ricans born in the States almost doubled between 2000 and 2017, while those born in P.R. actually decreased by 3%. A map showed that Puerto Ricans have a presence in all the boroughs, with a significant population in the South End.

Unlike immigrant groups from elsewhere in Latin America, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Since 1917, they have enjoyed certain rights and privileges not afforded to foreign-born populations. For example, Puerto Ricans can travel freely between the States and P.R. without a passport or visa and they can take advantage of some federal benefits. They can also serve in the U.S. military.

Despite their longstanding legacy of participation and contribution, BPDA research shows that Puerto Ricans in Boston still struggle to get ahead in some areas. For example, 47% of Bostonians over the age of 25 possess a Bachelor’s degree, compared to just 13% of Puerto Ricans. Thirty-five percent of Bostonians own their own home, compared to just 13% of Puerto Ricans. Only a third of Puerto Rican adults work full time, compared to 50% of adults in Boston. And just 11% of Puerto Ricans earn over $50,000 for full-time jobs, compared to 19% of adults in Boston.

A panel of local community leaders was assembled to reflect on the presentation and to answer audience questions. It included Nivia Pina, a partner in Tres Islas Group; Dr. Vanessa Calderon Rosado, the CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion; and Adrian Velazquez, Attorney and Research Analyst for the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Financial Services.

The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development features an Economic Development Center that offers free workshops throughout the City in order to increase access and opportunities. The August 14 event was part of their Community Economic Impact Series—meetings held around the city showing how different ethnic groups are participating in Boston’s economy.

The goal of the series, according to its website, is to “engage residents, hear their reactions to the data presented, and encourage suggestions on the city’s economic development policies and priorities.”

In addition to Puerto Ricans, the series has already featured Cape Verdeans, Haitians and Dominicans. Each event is hosted in a neighborhood with a high representation of the community in question and in their native language. All meetings include traditional ethnic foods, interpretation services, networking opportunities and a child-friendly environment.

For information on upcoming events in the Community Impact Series, visit

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