There is good news coming out of Puerto Rico, from the Gold Medal Jasmine Camacho-Quinn won at the Olympics to the big investment the American Rescue Plan is making in quality of life improvements and economic development.

We don’t want to belittle the good news.

But we do want to share some information about how things are going in Puerto Rico. It’s easy for people living in the states to think that things are great in Puerto Rico and that the Island should keep its current status so it doesn’t lose its “best of both worlds” position.

“The false premise of ‘commonwealth’ is that special privileges like tax breaks that don’t change economic conditions, international sports teams and ‘cultural nationhood’ compensate for the lack of equal rights and opportunities that statehood would have brought,” said Howard Hills, author of Citizens Without A State.

We hear this idea when politicians talk about Puerto Rico facing tax consequences from statehood and losing its Olympic team. But that would Puerto Rico lose with statehood?

How does Puerto Rico compare with the states, in quantifiable terms?

Do the math

Compare Puerto Rico with the states as a whole:

  • Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is twice as high.
  • The poverty rate is three times as high.
  • Median income is $18,928 in Puerto Rico, compared with $53,657 in the states.
  • The total population has fallen by more than 10%.
  • The population of elderly people has increased by 22%.
  • Twice as many people say they are in poor health.
  • Infant mortality is higher.

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the U.S. Census.

These are real challenges for the people living in Puerto Rico. Does it sound as though Puerto Rico will suffer if it becomes a state?Will the people miss their tax advantages?


Puerto Rico has many advantages, from biodiversity to a bilingual workforce. Economically, though, Puerto Rico is not in a strong position.

Every single territory that has become a state has been in a stronger economic position following statehood. Let’s not pretend that Puerto Rico will be different. Let’s not imagine that the Island has mysterious tax advantages that somehow make up for higher unemployment and lower incomes.

Please ask your representatives to support HR 1522 and S 780. Ask your friends and families who live in the states to contact their representatives. Let’s make sure that Congress understands that Puerto Rico needs statehood.



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