Wow, Florida now has 20.2 million residents, placing the state after California and Texas as the nation’s most populous states, according to the latest estimates from the census.
The figures are not too surprising. Last year, Florida surpassed New York as the state with the third largest population, which was saying a lot considering that New York is one of the original 13 colonies with a significant immigrant past. Now, many New Yorkers are bumping into each other in the Sunshine State.
Notably, “Florida added more people than California for the first time in nearly a decade,” according to the census press release.
“Growth” has long been Florida’s primary economic engine, all made possible by air conditioning in the early 20th century, helping to make bearable the swampy, soupy, humid heat.
Who is “growing” Florida today?
Baby boomers and Latinos – and not necessarily in that order. Northern and Midwestern boomers head south to escape the harsh winters and higher costs of living. Hispanics –who, frankly, are keeping the state younger than it might otherwise be – are fleeing mostly economic stagnation and sometimes political upheaval, opting to forge a future here.
Today, the state’s largest Hispanic groups are, in order, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. But this may get scrambled up in the near future. A fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico is sending many Puerto Ricans to Florida – the island’s population fell by 61,000 in the past year and Florida is the largest receiving state.
“The exodus, specifically of puertorriqueños, has been growing since 1990-2015,” wrote Julio García on Facebook.
Meantime, many Cubans are entering the U.S. via Texas instead of Florida. Plus, we don’t yet know how normalized relations between the two countries may affect Cubans’ favored immigrant status. As for Mexicans, contrary to popular opinion, net migration is below zero, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. More Mexicans are going home than coming to the U.S.
Challenges and Opportunities
As has historically been the case in Florida, first come the people followed by the infrastructure – roads, schools, housing and more. And that’s if we’re lucky. Most times, these things trail at a turtle’s pace. For instance, Central Florida is going to have some serious water supply issues by 2030, according to state studies. The I-4 expansion to include toll lanes will surely be outdated by the time it’s finished in 2021. For years, the area has had a serious affordable ho
using shortage, to say nothing of the minimum wage jobs that abound, making it difficult to make ends meet.
“Housing demand $$,” responded Nancy Colón to the news of Florida’s population growth.
Putting things in perspective, newcomers also inject the local economy with energy and activity. Florida leads all
Puerto Ricans, specifically, led all Hispanic groups in the U.S. in starting new businesses: 65 percent vs. 57 percent for Mexicans, 12 percent for Cubans and 44 percent or all other Hispanics.
That’s good news, considering Central Florida’s high concentration of Puerto Ricans.
˜˜María Padilla, Editor