The country’s population was estimated at 3.5 million in July of 2000. It is growing at a rate of 1.69 percent, which means that the population should reach approximately 4.1 million by 2010 and should double to over 7 million by the year 2035. Over 60 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 64, and only 5 percent of citizens are over 65 years old. The population is young, posing a challenge for the government to provide adequate schooling and training for youngsters. About 95 percent of the population can read and write. The larger, younger generation will also require greater health and retirement services as it begins to age.
Birth rates are at 20.69 per 1,000 people and death rates are at 4.31 per 1,000 people. There are approximately 2.52 children born per woman. Infant mortality rates are 11.49 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are approximately 1.02 males for every female in Costa Rica. The average life expectancy is 75.82 years: 73.3 years for males, and 78.5 years for females.
Adding to the high birth rate, the Costa Rican population also increases due to immigration —particularly from Nicaragua and other Central American countries. Immigrants come to Costa Rica in search of work opportunities, which they usually find in the agricultural sector. They are attracted by the relatively higher standards of living that are enjoyed in the country. The immigration rate for 2000 was estimated at 0.54 immigrants per 1,000 citizens.
The population of Costa Rica is mainly white (94 percent, including mixed European and Amerindian mestizos) and Roman Catholic (85 percent). There is a small proportion of black (3 percent), Amerindian (1 percent), and Chinese (1 percent) residents, and the second most important religious group is Evangelical Protestant (14 percent).