Economic Insecurity faced by Puerto Rican Children Impacts Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Sustainability

Economic Insecurity faced by Puerto Rican Children Impacts Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Sustainability

Economic insecurity continues to affect the development of children and youth; this is a human rights issue and has an impact on the island’s economic and fiscal sustainability. “Due to the migration trends and birth rates we have observed, children must become a priority population in the context of the island’s economic development. Therefore, we must ensure that the children that remain in the island have the opportunities to develop their full human potential,” said Amanda Rivera Flores, Executive Director of the Youth Development Institute (YDI) during the presentation of the 2018 Youth and Well-Being Index results.

The Well-Being Index results were presented during a presentation to government sector members and public policy promoters, and in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Senate Commission for Social and Economic Revitalization, led by Zoé Laboy. The Well-Being Index is an in-depth snapshot of the living conditions of children and youth, and for the fifth consecutive year the Index gave Puerto Rico a “D” grade.

“All too often we hear people say ‘young people are the future of our island’. However, we rarely speak about the fact that our youth will inherit the Puerto Rico we have created over generations, a Puerto Rico that is currently going through the greatest economic, and perhaps social, crisis of its modern history. This YDI report is an essential tool in aiding representatives and senators develop bills aimed at addressing the needs of our youngest constituents,” said Senator Laboy. Laboy also pointed out that in face of the challenges caused by a decrease in child population in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, it is necessary to focus resources to help this population.

Aside from comparing Puerto Rico with other United States jurisdictions, the Index presents 27 indicators that highlight how economic aspects are becoming an adverse factor for youth development; the report shows that 56% of children and youth live below the poverty threshold.

This year, the Index shows that in comparison with states and other U.S. jurisdictions, Puerto Rico faces the worst situation (first and second place) in nine of the 27 indicators.

The island has the highest percentage of:

  • Children in single-parent families: 56.5%
  • Children living below the poverty threshold: 56.4%
  • Families with children where at least one parent is unemployed*: 43.3%; (*refers to mothers or fathers that are unemployed and not participating in the work force)
  • Youth that do not have daily physical activity: 32.2%
  • Student between grades 9-12 that did not go to school because they felt unsafe on the way to school: 12%
  • Low weight births: 10.6%
  • Youth between the ages of 16-19 that do not go to school and are unemployed: 2.4%

Puerto Rico also has:

  • Lowest median income in families with children younger than 18: $20,292 per year
  • Lowest percentile in the NAEP test, with a score of 183, and 0% of fourth grade students had a proficient or advanced score in mathematics academic achievement

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has the lowest percentage of:

  • Youth reporting to have seriously considered a suicide attempt: 12.3%
  • Youth reporting to have consumed marihuana during the last month: 6%.
  • Youth reporting to have been victims of bullying at school: 10%.
  • Children ages 3 and 4 that are not enrolled in pre-school: 67.4%.

Regarding the Municipality Index, which contains 17 of the 27 indicators in the Puerto Rico Well-being Index, the municipalities with the worst conditions are:

    Children living below the poverty threshold:
    • Maricao: 78.9%
    • Las Marías: 78.4%
    • Guánica: 76.6%
    • Adjuntas: 76.4%
    • Barranquitas 73.8%

    Median income for families with children younger than 18:

    • Ciales: $8,371
    • Lajas: $9,407
    • Las Marías: $9,558
    • Adjuntas: $10,040
    • Maricao: $10,339

    Families with children where at least one parent is unemployed:

    • Ciales: 74.2%
    • Patillas: 73.8%
    • Guayanilla: 70%
    • Adjuntas: 69.3%
    • Barranquitas: 66.8%

    Youth ages 16-19 that do not go to school and do not have a high school diploma:

    • Las Marías: 16.6%
    • Ciales: 12.2%
    • Corozal: 10.5%
    • Adjuntas: 10.5%
    • Jayuya: 10.5%

    As part of the publication, a panel of experts composed of leaders from the non-government sector shared their reactions to the findings. Dr. María Enchautegui, an economist and Director of the Department of Economy at the University of Puerto Rico, discussed the subject of Families with Children and Unemployed Parents; Jose Guzmán Pereira, Director of the Infant and Maternal Health Program for the March of Dimes, discussed his reaction to the data related to low weight births, Jose Acarón, AARP State Director, discussed his impressions on the data related to grandparents caring for grandchildren; Anayra Túa, Executive Director of the Proyecto Nacer, shared her comments on teen mother birth rates; and Dereck Cordero, youth leader for the Boys & Girls Clubs at the Residencial Luis Llorens Torres, shared his experience from the perspective of children and youth.

    “These indicators show that Economic Security is the area with the worst situation in Puerto Rico. For this reason, it is necessary to transform the conditions affecting children and youth and their families, to ensure they have access to the opportunities that will allow them to improve their economic situation,” stated the Executive Director of the YDI.

    You can access the State Index href=”″>here. If you would like to find out more about the YDI’s public policy efforts to reduce poverty and join our efforts, visit , nuestra página de o escribirnos un correo electrónico a

    The Youth Development Institute (Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud, IDJ) is a non-profit organization working to advance public policies at both the commonwealth and federal level that will improve the lives and development of children in Puerto Rico. Our work includes research, collection and dissemination of data, public policy recommendations and advocacy efforts based on data as well as the voices of Puerto Rico’s youth and their families.