In 2016, Costa Rica was named the happiest country in the world. But, while the country as a whole has enjoyed stability and a steadily growing economy in recent years, marginalized groups have been left behind.
Here are seven important facts about Costa Rica’s poverty rate that should not be overlooked:
- Costa Rica’s inequality rate has increased since 2000, a division that disproportionately affects indigenous and minority groups. Today, the country’s richest 20 percent receive an income 19 times higher than that of the poorest 20 percent.
- While, overall, Costa Rica’s poverty rate has dropped from 22.4 percent to 21.7 percent from 2014 to 2015, the country’s extreme poverty rate rose from 5.8 percent to 7.2 percent, the highest recorded rate in the last 60 years.
- While 19 percent of urban households live in poverty and 5.2 percent live in extreme poverty, 30.3 percent of rural households live in poverty and 10.6 percent in extreme poverty.
- Poor Costa Ricans have, on average, three years less schooling than their economically stable peers.
- In Costa Rica, 43.5 percent of poor households are headed by women.
- Since an inflation crisis in the ’80s and ’90s, the Costa Rican government has managed to boost the economy through international tourism and exports. These sectors benefit qualified workers, while unskilled workers, over-represented by indigenous and minority groups, see no change or a decrease in their salaries.
- Public assistance to poor families increased by 9.3 percent per household and 6.9 percent per person from 2014 to 2015.
Costa Rica’s poverty rate seems to be sewed up neatly on the surface, but the growth of a country doesn’t always reflect the growth of its people. The disparity of incomes and opportunities between uneducated people in rural areas versus educated people in urban areas threatens to rob Costa Rica of its good economic reputation.
– Sophie Nunnally