San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica births decreasing

Costa Rica has changed substantially in recent years. Preliminary results from the 2011 Census, produced by the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), show that although the country’s population is not increasing as expected, Costa Rican demographics and housing trends are much different from what they were in 2000. 

Costa Rica has 4,301,712 people, an increase of only 491,533 since 2000. However, population density is increasing, with 84 people per square kilometer – nine more than in 2000. Women make up the majority of the population, totaling 51 percent. 

Costa Rica is not experiencing significant population growth in comparison to the previous census a decade ago. Between 2000 and 2011, the population grew by 1.1 percent. From 1984 to 2000, the growth rate was 2.8 percent. 

“We attribute this result to a constant drop in the birth rate. Births have decreased from 19.5 births for 1,000 people [in 2000], to 15.5 in 2011. In 1963, women had an average of seven children each; in 2010 that number dropped to 1.8,” said INEC Census Coordinator Elizabeth Solano. 

Although additional conclusions from the census will be made public early next year, Solano said that current results may already indicate the slowing down of immigration in the country, and a possible increase in  emigration. 

“We are entering a phase of a more complex immigration dynamic that will require further analysis. We will soon be able to give a broader view of how immigration is changing the country’s population,” Solano said.

San José continues to be Costa Rica’s most populated province, but it also has the slowest population growth. Between 2000 and 2011, the province’s population grew by only 0.4 percent. Guanacaste province’s population  showed the highest population growth, at 1.9 percent during the same period. 

The canton of San José is also one of the slowest-growing cantons in terms of population, along with other Central Valley cantons including Montes de Oca and Goicoechea. Solano said many of the slow-growing cantons had been the fastest-growing ones a decade ago.

Today, more properties are turning into businesses, and residents are moving out of the city centers. 

Garabito, in the province of Puntarenas, home to the booming beach town of Jacó,  has been Costa Rica’s fastest-growing canton in the past decade. 

The census also analyzed how the housing sector changed in the past 11 years. The average number of people per household is decreasing. INEC data show that in 2000, an average of 4.1 people lived in a household; that number decreased in 2011 to 3.5.

Guanacaste is once again the province that showed the most significant increase in number of houses. In the coastal province, the housing growth index is 4.1 percent, a number that exceeds the national average of 2.5 percent. 

“This number, however, may be related to the increasing number of temporary housing built in tourist towns, which in most cases is only occupied during a short amount of time each year, and mostly by foreigners,” Solano said.

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