Is Puerto Rico Too Small to Be a State?

We sometimes see comments in social media saying that Puerto Rico is too small to be a state. This is a completely false claim.

How big does a state have to be?

There are three possible answers to this question. First, the Constitution says there should be no more than one representative for every 30,000 people, which means that a state should not be smaller than 30,000 people. The Northwest Ordinance, on the other hand, specifics 60,000 people as the minimum for statehood. Finally, the Land Ordinance of 1784 said 20,000 was the minimum. However, this small number was based on the populations of the 13 original colonies, and was superseded by later versions to the Ordinance, including the Northwest Ordinance.

The requirement of 60,000 residents was used to decide how big a state had to be for most of U.S. history. However, there were exceptions. Colorado Territory took its census during the summer, when lots of miners lived and worked in the territory. In winter, the full-time population was much smaller — about 28,000. Ohio was admitted with about 45,000 residents and an assurance from the territory that they would soon have 60,000. Wyoming argued that their population was spread out too far to get an accurate census, and their representative claimed that they actually had 125,000 people, more than twice as many as they counted in the census two years after they became a state.

Puerto Rico, even after years of losing residents to the states, still has a population of roughly 3.2 million U.S. citizens. By any definition, Puerto Rico is not too small to be a state.

How big is Puerto Rico?

21 of the current 50 states have smaller populations that Puerto Rico does. This chart shows that Puerto Rico will be right in the middle for population once the territory becomes a state.

The real issue is not whether Puerto Rico is big enough to become a state. It certainly is. The issue is that there are Americans who think Puerto Rico is too small to become a state. Many people on the mainland just don’t know enough about Puerto Rico to understand why statehood is the right solution. That includes some of the lawmakers in Congress. We need to educate our representatives. Reach out to your congressperson. Our easy guide will show you several ways you can get in touch with your representative.

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