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Costa Rica has the highest percentage of migrant population in Latin America, study finds

December 1, 2014

Costa Rica is the Latin American country with the highest percentage of immigrants living in its territory, making up 9 percent of the total population, according to data compiled by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), released earlier this month.

Argentina was next, with 4.5 percent, followed by Venezuela and the Dominican Republic at 4.2 percent. Panama was fifth with 3.5 percent.

Argentina, however, is the nation with the highest absolute number of immigrants, registering 1.86 million.

The study emphasized that migratory flows within the region rose at an annual rate of nearly 3.5 percent between 2000 and 2010, marking an acceleration from the previous 20 years when they increased at a pace of roughly 1 percent. Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic had the greatest number of these people.

The report on Costa Rica is based on data from the country’s census in 2011, which showed a total of 385,000 immigrants live here.

It also noted that Costa Rica is the only country in Latin America where the economically active population has gender equity at 97 percent for both men and women. All other regional countries register a wide gender gap in which men reported substantially higher economic participation than women.

According to Costa Rica’s National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), the 2000 census showed the trend of Costa Rica as a migrant-receiving nation, comprising 7.8 percent of its population. The figure doubled the 3.7 percent registered in the 1984 census.

The growth rate of the immigrant population, however, fell by 7.5 percent during the 1984-2000 period to 2.4 percent between 2000-2011.

INEC’s report states that “immigration has tended to stabilize from 2000, and that also affected the lower growth rate of the country’s total population.”

Most immigrants currently residing in Costa Rica come from Nicaragua, totaling about 300,000, according to INEC.

The full ECLAC report can be downloaded here (available only in Spanish).

Related: Obama: US will make immigration ‘more fair and just’

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