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Costa Rica poverty hits young people the hardest, says new survey

October 29, 2015

More than 65 percent of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old, according to a new multi-dimensional poverty index Casa Presidencial rolled out Thursday. Children under the age of 18 make up the largest single group of poor Ticos at 34.1 percent.

The multidimensional poverty index, developed in coordination with Oxford University, tracks poverty across 19 different indicators, including education, housing, health care, employment and Internet access, among others. Proponents of the MPI say that poverty takes many forms and that income alone provides an incomplete picture. The MPI is used by several other Latin American countries, including Mexico, Colombia and Chile.

“We need to liberate ourselves from the dictatorship of the average income,” said President Luis Guillermo Solís during the presentation of the results on Thursday. “We care about living breathing people, not statistics.”

The MPI showed rates of multidimensional poverty in Costa Rica similar to those published on Oct. 22. The MPI reported that 21.8 percent of Costa Rican households were considered poor because they had hardships in at least five of the 19 categories, totaling 1.26 million Costa Ricans. The traditional household survey published last week found an overall poverty rate of 21.7 percent.

The most common struggles for poor Costa Ricans were informal employment (88.1 percent), “low human capital” (74.2 percent), lack of health care insurance (63 percent) and not finishing high school (63.8 percent). Just under 50 percent lacked Internet access and 42.8 percent lived in a home where the roof or floor was in poor condition.

The Central region of Costa Rica showed the lowest rate of MPI defined poverty at 15.6 percent. Huetar Caribe — the region that encompasses Limón and the northeastern part of the country — had the highest levels of multidimensional poverty at 38 percent.

The National Statistics Institute will continue to carry out the MPI alongside its traditional household strategy, according to a statement from the institute. Vice President Ana Helena Chacón said the MPI — which was adopted by the United Nations to track post-2015 development goals — will help the government better focus resources to fight poverty.

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