Demographics of Costa Rica

Demographics of Costa Rica

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Costa Rica, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Demographics of Costa Rica, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

According to the United Nations, in 2009 Costa Rica has an estimated population of 4,579,000 people. Together, whites and mestizos make up a 94% of the population, 3% are black people, 1% Amerindians, 1% Chinese, and 1% other.

Just under 3% of the population is of black African descent who are called Afro-Costa Ricans or West Indians and are English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers. Another 1% is composed of ethnic Chinese, and less than 1% are Middle Easterners, mainly of Lebanese descent.

There is also a community of North American retirees from the United States and Canada, followed by fairly large numbers of European Union expatriates (esp. Scandinavians and from Germany) come to retire as well, and Australians.[citation needed]

The indigenous population today numbers about 60,000 (1% of the population) with some Miskito and Garifuna (mixed African and West Indian with indigenous Arawak/Carib/Taíno) peoples live in the coastal regions.

Descendants of 19th century West Indian and Jamaican immigrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority and at 3% of the population—number about 96,000 to 100,000.[citation needed]

An estimated 10% of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans.[3] There is also a number of Colombian refugees. Moreover, Costa Rica took in lots of refugees from a range of other Latin American countries fleeing civil wars and dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s - notably from Chile and Argentina.

Almost 100,000 Costa Ricans (2% of the country's population) live abroad, mostly in the United States, Mexico and Spain.


Population and ancestry

In 2009, Costa Rica has a population of 4,579,000 and it's increasing at a rate of 1.52% per year, still relatively high. If this rate continues, the population will increase to 9,158,000 in about 46 years.[4] The population density is nearly 90 people per square km, the third highest in Central America.[5]

Today most Costa Ricans are of primarily Spanish ancestry with minorities of German, Italian, French, Dutch, British, Swedish and Greek ancestry. 80% being White and 14% being Mestizo. European and western-oriented, plus American pop culture has a large impact in Costa Rica, also thrived in a fairly democratic prosperous economy.

European immigration used Costa Rica to get across the isthmus of Central America as well to emigrate on the USA West Coast (California) in the late 19th century and to the 1910s before the Panama Canal opened. Other European ethnic groups known to live in Costa Rica are Russians, Danes, Belgians, Portuguese, Croats, Hungarians, Turks, Armenians and Georgians. Without a doubt Costa Rica is the Central American country with the largest white population.

Costa Rica has three small minority groups: blacks, Indians and Asians (mostly Chinese). Blacks represent about 3% of the population. Indians and Asians represent 1.5% each.

Blacks live along the Caribbean coast. Their ancestors came to Costa Rica from Jamaica in the late 19th century to build railroads and to work on the banana plantations. The Indians live primarily in isolated communities in the highlands and along both coasts. Most of them still keep their traditional ways of life.

Nearly all Costa Ricans speak Spanish; but many blacks speak a traditional Jamaican dialect of the English, also most of the Indians speak their own language. According to the World Factbook the main religions are: Roman Catholic, 76.3%; Evangelical, 13.7%; Jehovah's Witnesses, 1.3%; other Protestant, 0.7%; other, 4.8%; none, 3.2%.

Approximately 40% live in rural areas and 60% in urban areas. The rate of urbanization estimated for the period 2005–2010 is 2.3% per annum,[6] one of the highest among developing countries.

Province Province population City City population
San Jose Province 1,345,750 San Jose de Costa Rica 350,535
Alajuela Province 716,286 Alajuela 46,554
Cartago Province 432,395 Cartago 156,600
Puntarenas Province 357,483 Puntarenas 102,504
Heredia Province 354,732 Heredia 42,600
Limon Province 339,395 Puerto Limon 105,000
Guanacaste Province 264,238 Liberia 98,751


According to the UN, Costa Rica's literacy rate stands at 95.8%,[7] the fifth highest among Latin American countries. Costa Rica's Education Index in 2006 was 0.882; higher than that of richer countries, such as Singapore and Mexico. However Costa Rica's gross enrolment ratio is only 73.0%, smaller than that of the neighbors countries of El Salvador and Honduras.[8]

All students must complete primary school and secondary school, between 6 and 15 years. But some students drop out because they must work to help support their families. In 2007 there were 536,436 pupils enrolled in 3,771 primary schools and 377,900 students attended public and private secondary schools.[9]

Costa Rica's main universities are the University of Costa Rica, in San Jose and the National University of Costa Rica, in Heredia. Costa Rica also has several private universities.

Emigration and immigration

Costa Rica's emigration is among the smallest in the Caribbean Basin. About 3% of the country's people live in another country as immigrants. The main destination countries are the United States, Spain, Mexico and other Central American countries. In 2005, there were 127,061 Costa Ricans living in another country as immigrants. Remittances were $513,000,000 in 2006 and they represented 2.3% of the country's GDP.

Costa Rica's immigration is among the largest in the Caribbean Basin. Immigrants in Costa Rica represent about 10.2% of the Costa Rican population. The main countries of origin are Nicaragua, Colombia, United States and El Salvador. In 2005, there were 440,957 people in the country living as immigrants. Outward Remittances were $246,000,000 in 2006.

Costa Rica attracts a sizable number of East Asian and Southeast Asian nationalities, as well smaller numbers of Indians with other South Asians and increasingly Palestinians from the Middle East (usually they are Iraq War refugees), sometimes cross the Central American isthmus from the Pacific to the Atlantic side to finally enter the US in Florida and the Eastern Seaboard such as New York City.

Demographic statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook and from the UN unless otherwise indicated.


4,608,426 (2011 est.)[10]

Population density

89.6 hab/sq km

Median age

Total: 27.5 years
Male: 27.1
Female: 28 years (2009 est.)

Population growth rate

1.5% (2005–2010)

Birth rate

17.8 births/1,000 population (2005–2010)

Death rate

4.1 deaths/1,000 population (2005–2010)

Net migration rate

1.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005–2010)

Net migration (thousands)

84,000 migrant(s) (2005–2010)[11]

Sex ratio

At birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)
Total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2009 est.)

Infant mortality rate

9.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2005–2010)

Under five mortality rate

11.4/1,000 live births (2005–2010)

Life expectancy at birth

Total population: 78.8 years
Male: 76.5 years
Female: 81.2 years (2005–2010)

Total fertility rate

2.13 children born/woman (2005–2010)


Adult prevalence rate: 0.4% (2007)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 9,700 (2007)
Deaths: fewer than 200 (2007)


Noun: Costa Rican(s)
Adjective: Costa Rican

Ethnic groups

  • White & Mestizo 94%
  • Black/Afro-Caribbean 3%
  • Amerindian 1%
  • Chinese 1%
  • Other 1%


Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%


Spanish (official), English (as a second language)


Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 94.9% (2007/2008)

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2006 edition".

External links

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