San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Warm, Fuzzy Statistics: How Costa Rica Rates

Abooklet called “Pocket World in Figures, 2006 Edition,” put out by The Economist newspaper, brought to my attention a few statistics that made me feel good about the little country we are happy to call home. Some samples:

Purchasing Power (GDP per capita). In the world ranking, Costa Rica comes in 70th place, but it ranks third in Latin America, behind Argentina (59th) and Chile (69th).

Human Development Index (adult literacy plus life expectancy). In the world, Costa Rica ranks 43rd, but third in Latin America behind Argentina (34th) and Chile (41st). The index is topped by Norway. Canada gets the fourth position and the United States ranks eighth.

Economic Freedom Index. Forty countries are rated, but from Latin America only Chile (11th) and El Salvador (24th) are rated. The United Kingdom gets seventh, the United States and Switzerland tie for 12th and Canada ranks 16th.

Economic Growth (1993-2003). Costa Rica gets 47th place worldwide, but ranks third in the Americas, behind Nicaragua (30th) and Chile (35th).

Highest Inflation (2004). Costa Rica, with 12.5%, is 23rd in the world ranking, but places fourth in Latin America behind Suriname, Venezuela and Paraguay. The highest inflation rate was in Zimbabwe,with 140.1%.

Coffee Production. Costa Rica does not appear in the top 10. Surprisingly, Guatemala ranked eighth and Honduras ninth.

Most Crowded Roads. Costa Rica doesn’t figure in this table of the top 50. Of Latin American counties, Uruguay placed 22nd, Mexico 31st, Guatemala 33rd and El Salvador 40th. The bumper-to-bumper prize was won by Hong Kong.

Car Ownership. Lebanon tops the bill with 732 cars per 1,000 people. Canada places sixth with 559. The United States ranks 14th, with 481. The only Latin American country that figures on this table of 50 countries is Uruguay, in 48th place, with 154 cars per 1,000 people.

Most Auto Accidents (number of people injured per vehicle kilometer.) Costa Rica gets fourth prize worldwide, and top place in the Americas. Canada ranks 20th, and the United States 33rd. This table is topped by Malawi, with has 6.7 times more accidents than Costa Rica.

Auto-Related Deaths. Malawi again tops the bill worldwide. In the Americas, Colombia gets ninth place, Honduras 11th and Costa Rica 16th. Bolivia and Mexico tie for10th. The United States and Canada do not figure in the top 40.

Air Travel. The airports that move the most passengers are Atlanta (Hartsfield) and Chicago (O’Hare) in the United States, and London (Heathrow) in the United Kingdom. The much-reviled Miami International does not figure in the top 12. In regard to aircraft traffic, the top eight positions are U.S. airports, and Paris (Charles de Gaulle) ranks ninth. No mention of Juan Santamaría.

Most Tourist Arrivals. France tops the bill with 75 million foreign tourists per year. The United States gets third place after Spain. Mexico ranks eighth and Canada 10th. The only other American country that figures on this list of 40 is Brazil, with 4 million tourists. (Obviously, the person compiling the statistics has not been to Guanacaste in January!)

Highest Life Expectancy. Andorra tops the list, with an average life expectancy of 83.5 years. Canada gets eighth position worldwide, with an average of 80.7 years. Costa Rica gets the 34th worldwide position (highest in Latin America), at 78.8 years. The United States ties with Portugal for 40th, with a life expectancy of 77.9 years. The lowest life expectancy is that of Swaziland, 29.9 years. (One wonders what the Costa Rican rate would be if we had decent sidewalks.)

Health Spending (as a percentage of GDP). The United States gets the highest rating worldwide. In America, Uruguay gets sixth place worldwide, Canada 11th and Costa Rica 15th. Argentina and Panama tie for 22nd.

Population per Doctor. On average, each Italian doctor has 165 patients in his care. Cuba gets the second worldwide position (best in the Americas) with 170. U.S. doctors average 188 patients (third place). Uruguay ranks second in Latin America (11th worldwide), with 275 patients per doctor.

Obesity (men). Lebanon tops the worldwide bill, with 36.3% obese men. In the Americas, Panama gets third place with 27.9%, and the United States ranks fourth with 27.7%. Canada gets 27th place, with 16% obese Canucks.

Obesity (women). The big fat prize goes to Qatar, where 45.3% of the women are obese. Panama gets sixth place with 36.1%. The United States gets 10th place with 34.0%. Canada does not figure on this list of 29 countries.

Marriage Rate. Bermuda tops the worldwide bill. The United States ranks 14th, with the highest marriage rate in the Americas. Mexico tops Latin America in 24th position, followed by Costa Rica, which gets 34th place.

Divorce Rate. Aruba gets the top worldwide position, followed closely by the United States. Cuba gets 10th place, highest in Latin America. Costa Rica gets 32nd place, second highest in Latin America. The lowest worldwide divorce rate belongs to Colombia, incidentally.

Computers. Switzerland tops the list with 70.9 computers per 100 people. The United States gets second place with 66. Canada sits in 10th position with 48.7. And Costa Rica gets the Latin American prize (but 33rd place worldwide) with 21.8 computers per 100 people.

Beer Consumption (liters per head). The frothy prize goes to the CzechRepublic, with 157 liters. Venezuela gets America’s top billing (11th worldwide) with 82.1 liters. The United States ranks 12th, with 81.6 liters. Canada gets 20th place, with 67.8 liters. No other American countries figure on the list of 23.

Wine. Luxembourgers drink the most wine. Of American countries, only Argentina (seventh place), Uruguay (ninth) and Chile (23rd) figure on the list.

Guaro. Guaro consumption is not rated by The Economist.

Environmental Sustainability Index. Finland and Norway top this list of 32 countries. Costa Rica holds position 17 worldwide. Surprisingly, nine Latin American countries figure on the list.

Lowest Personal Security. Only two cities in the Americas figure on the list of 12: Bogotá, Colombia, in sixth place, and Medellín, Colombia, in 11th place.

Land Area under Protected Status (percentage by country). Colombia gets the top rating with 72.3% protected, followed by Venezuela with 70.3%. Ecuador ranks 15th worldwide with 26.0% protected, followed by Costa Rica in 16th place with 25.6%. Significantly for the area, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras also appear on the list of 28 countries.

Median Age. The average age of Costa Ricans is 26.1 years. Compare to Canada, 38.6; Argentina, 28.9; the United Kingdom, 39.0; and the United States, 36.1. Nicaragua, our neighbor to the north, has the second lowest median age in the Americas, 19.7. The Latin American babies are the Guatemalans, who average 18.1.


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