San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Biracial Costa Ricans worse off than black Ticos, says UNPD report

Biracial Costa Ricans struggle with higher rates of high school desertion and unemployment than self-identified black Ticos, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Program.

The report, presented to black Costa Rican community leaders and the public in San José Tuesday morning, stressed the economic and educational gaps experienced by the country’s Afro-descendent population, especially between urban and rural groups.

“If you’re mulatto, living in the countryside in Costa Rica, you’re much more likely to be poor, have problems dealing with education and unemployment, or employment of poor quality,” said Silvia García, regional coordinator for the project.

García observed that biracial Costa Ricans in rural areas were most likely not to graduate high school and to be unemployed. Only 8.6 percent of “mulattos” reported attending university compared to 17.6 percent of self-identified Afro-Costa Ricans. 

Only 9.3 percent of black Costa Ricans graduate from college, the lowest representation of any other group. Afro-descendent Costa Ricans are more likely than other Ticos to not graduate high school and go unemployed, according to a review by the UNDP’s review of the country’s 2011 census data. 

While unemployment remains low for Afro-Costa Ricans, 3 percent for men and only 1.5 percent for women, Silvia García stressed that employment alone does not solve poverty.

“They have work, women more than men, but in Latin America, having a job does not mean that you’ve escaped poverty. Sometimes the work is low quality or doesn’t come with social or other benefits. There are poor who are employed,” she observed. 

Thanks to the added category of “mulatto” to the 2011 Costa Rican census, researchers got a more detailed picture of the number of people of color in Costa Rica. The number of Afro-descendent Ticos jumped from just over 1 percent in 2000 to 7.8 percent in 2011. In 2011, 6.7 percent identified as “mulatto” and 1.1 as “black.” 

Despite these hurdles, 6 percent of Ticos said that they had been discriminated against based on their skin color while 27 percent said they believed life was more difficult for black Costa Ricans, according to a recent UNPD report on human development in the country.

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