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Hurricane Maria’s Effects on Young Children in Puerto Rico


October 16, 2017
Cristina Novoa
Center for American Progress

Puerto Rico is home to nearly 175,000 U.S. citizen children aged birth to 4 years old. More than half of these children live below the federal poverty level. Much like in the rest of the United States, young children in Puerto Rico are most likely to live in families that are barely able to meet their basic needs. Early childhood is a critical period of development. However, without access to nutritious food, safe housing, and quality medical care, young children living in poverty can quickly fall behind their more economically advantaged peers.

Regardless of family income, all children in Puerto Rico find themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—the strongest storm to hit the island in a lifetime. The effects of poverty, combined with the trauma of living through a natural disaster, will not fade away easily: The experiences that Puerto Rico’s young children have now will directly influence their long-term physical, cognitive, and emotional development.

This column describes four critical areas of government support on which many Puerto Rican children depend.