Operation Bootstrap

Operation Bootstrap

Written on 08/23/2023

Operation Bootstrap, formulated in the late 1940 ’s by the United States in Puerto Rico. Two major components to the policy were incorporated in efforts to ameliorate overpopulation on the island.

First, migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland was encouraged, resulting in over 50% of Puerto Ricans living off the island by 1970. This served to ensure Puerto Rico’s dependence on relations with the U.S. and to provide a low-wage workforce on the mainland.

The second was a direct attack on reproduction. Government officials, public health officials, hospital administrators, missionaries, and social workers encouraged the use of contraceptives and surgical sterilization. By 1969, 35% of all Puerto Rican women of child-bearing age had undergone the operation.

Simultaneously, the political, economic and social structures of the island became firmly anchored on U.S. export-led industrialization. Factories, that employed a disproportionate
number of women were considered the primary engines of economic growth.

Accordingly, women employed outside the home increased by 21% each decade between 1940—1960; while the labor participation of Puerto Rican men dropped from 80% in 1950 to 60% by1975.

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