Costa Rica’s territorial size has been about the same since the late 1830s except an ongoing San Juan river dispute with neighboring Nicaragua. In recent decades the population has stabilized as fertility fell below replacement level, although since 1980 the population has doubled and is now over 4 million people. The only population increase at this point comes from immigration a lot of which is illegal immigration from Colombia and Nicaragua and expatriats from the United States. Costa Rica has a high standard of living, although agriculture remains a large part of its export earnings. Land ownership is widespread and political stability is dependable. Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries.
Costa Rica’s economy is tied to the United States through exports, imports and capital flows. But as a territory it is more tied to Nicaragua. Over 300,000 mostly unskilled Nicaraguans legally and illegally live in Costa Rica due to it’s jobs and social services. There are tensions between the two countries due to these illegal immigrants. In contrast, about 50,000 Americans live in Costa Rica as expatriats, many of them retired and seeking an inexpensive cost of living. Costa Rica beaches, Costa Rica airports and Costa Rica real estate are all attractive. A retired U.S. couple can live comfortably in Costa Rica for about $3,000 a month.
Living In Costa Rica – Lay Of The Land
Costa Rica is south of the Caribbean Sea and for the most part, south of the northern coasts of Columbia and Venezuela. It’s also west of South America, but it’s also just six hundred mile north of the Equator. There are hot steamy jungles and hot Costa Rica beaches, but surprisingly, there is a mountain range in the center of Costa Rica and a central valley that is on a mountain plateau. There the daily temperature is much more moderate and in the mountains it is cold. San Jose, the capital city, is in the central valley and is the cultural and social center of Costa Rica. With new technology and capital there are jobs and a substantial quality of life.
Costa Rica’s population and most of the agriculture are located in the central highlands, although it is still only a few hours drive to the coast no matter where you are. Much of the country is forested and the mountainous central area is bordered by coastal plains on the east and west. The climate is semitropical to tropical, which can be difficult for U.S. retirees. Fortunately there are many short videos on YouTube that describe what ex-patriot life in Costa Rica is like. Living in Costa Rica is different than anywhere in mainland U.S., but these videos provide reasonable guidance to the climate, culture and geography. Just Google “Costa Rica.”
Expansion By Treaty
With one of the healthiest economies in Central America, Costa Rica has active trade arrangements with other Central American countries as well as with the United States and European countries. Costa Rica’s economy was originally tied almost exclusively to agriculture, but over the last forty years a healthy technology sector has developed along with a tourism industry. The CAFTA-DR , or Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Association was signed in 2004 and includes Costa Rica, which was added in 2009. In 2013 this treaty organization as a whole became the United States’14th largest trading network and passed $60 billion dollars of trade among all the participating countries. Almost 50% of Costa Rica’s exports go to the United States and almost 39% of Costa Rica’s imports come from the United States. A substantial amount of the digital technology in Costa Rica involves imports from the U.S. or the Netherlands. For U.S. ex-patriots this means the digital life-style in Costa Rica is advanced and comfortable.
Costa Rica is successfully leveraging trade agreements to expand territorial access in various places around the world. Without these agreements Costa Rica would remain tied to a regional economy that would not have the same demand profile for Costa Rican products, which would depress prices and volumes. With trade Costa Rica is attempting to advance from an agricultural-based economy to a more sophisticated manufacturing and technology-based economy. The generally well educated population and comparatively low wage levels make trade with Europe, the United States and Singapore workable.
The press towards free-trade seems to be working for Costa Rica and leading towards growth of a digital sector that will tie Costa Rica to the evolving networked global economy. For the United States, Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that holds a slightly positive U.S. trade balance. Costa Rica’s economic growth towards a more sophisticated economy requires U.S. technology imports, which also supports more tourism and more expatriates.