Costa Rica

Map Costa Rica
Maps copyright Hammond World Atlas Corp.

Flag of Costa Rica


Background: Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
Area land: 51,060 sq km
Area water: 40 sq km
Coastline: 1,290 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
Country name conventional short form: Costa Rica
Country name former: Republic of Costa Rica
Population: 4,576,562 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.6% (male 574,876/female 549,664); 15-64 years: 69.1% (male 1,588,940/female 1,571,573); 65 years and over: 6.4% (male 135,017/female 156,492) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 1.308% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 16.54 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 4.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.87 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female; total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 9.45 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 8.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 77.72 years; male: 75.1 years; female: 80.46 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.93 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.3% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 9,800 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 500 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Costa Rican(s); adjective: Costa Rican;
Ethnic groups: white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%;
Religions: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%;
Languages: Spanish (official), English;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 94.9%; male: 94.7%; female: 95.1% (2000 census);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $51.55 billion (2010 est.); $49.57 billion (2009 est.); $49.91 billion (2008 est.);

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate): $35.44 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2010 est.); -0.7% (2009 est.); 2.6% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $11,400 (2010 est.); $11,100 (2009 est.); $11,400 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 6.3%; industry: 22.9%; services: 70.8% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 16% (2006 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.5%; highest 10%: 35.5% (2005);
Labor force: 2.17 million;
note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2010 est.)

Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 14%; industry: 22%; services: 64% (2006 est.);
Unemployment rate: 7.3% (2010 est.); 7.8% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $5.085 billion; expenditures: $6.921 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products;
Industrial production growth rate: 3% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 9.29 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 8.25 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - exports: 77.16 million kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 203.2 million kWh (2007 est.);

Statistics: CIA World Factbook.


La Nación

(Centrist), San José

Tico Times

(Liberal, English-language), San José

Costa Rica in the News

Rejecting Politics as Usual

Robert Taylor reviews Costa Rican coverage of the presidential election campaign there.

Costa Rica: The Lessons of Horror

Costa Rica reacts to the terrorist attacks on the United States