Costa Rica

Population size
Mean years of schooling
Population 25 years and older
Gender gap in mean years of schooling
Male advantage, population 25 years and older
Universal lower secondary education reached in
Year 90% of 30-34 years old have at least lower secondary
Not yet achieved

Educational attainment

Costa Rica 1900–2010, population 25 years and older

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Population by age, sex and education

Costa Rica 1900–2010

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Main Findings

In 1900, only 0.9% of the Costa Rican population older than 25 years had received at least lower secondary education. This proportion increased to 8.2% until 1950 and to 44.4% until 2010. By then, about 19.0% of the population aged 25 years or older finished a post-secondary education while 55.6% had primary education or less as their highest educational attainment. Mean years of schooling of the population 25 years or older increased from 1.3 years in 1900 to 2.8 years in 1950 and to 7.1 years in 2010.

Gender and Age

In Costa Rica, gender differences in educational attainment have been more or less diminished during the 20th century. Interestingly in Costa Rica, the gender imbalance has rather been in favour of women. In 1900, 0.7% of the men aged 25 years and older had at least lower secondary education, compared to 1.0% of the women. By 1950 about 10.5% of the men and 12.8% of the women aged 30 to 34 years had achieved at least lower secondary education while for instance this share was only 2.4% and 2.9% for the population aged 65–69. Universal lower secondary education has not yet been achieved, neither for men nor women. Since 1995, there has been an inverse gender gap in higher education, with larger proportions of women completing post-secondary education than men. In 2010, about 25.2% of women in the 30–34 age group had post-secondary educational attainment, compared to 21.4% of men.

About the Data

The EDU20C estimates of the population of Costa Rica by age, sex and education are based on several census datasets dating back to 1927. Puerto Rican censuses provide information on highest educational attainment in decennial intervals for the time since 1950. Before 1950 data on education or literacy by age and sex are not available. For Costa Rica, all 6 education categories (aggregated to 4 before 1950) are available in the reconstruction model.


For 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 life table were constructed using MORTPAK provided by the UN (Model life table pattern: New UN Latin America) based on life expectancy at birth stated in Rosero & Caamano (1984). For Costa Rica it was necessary to extend the open-ended age group (80+ years) existing life tables by using a logistic extrapolation of nqx, Lx and ax to get life tables up to the open-ended age group 100+ years. Additionally it was necessary to generate life tables for missing data-points by interpolating/extrapolating life expectancies at birth by sex. The model fits a logistic function to existing life expectancies at birth, given the values of upper and lower asymptotes. Based on these estimated life expectancies we use a function that interpolates the logarithms of the probabilities of dying (nqx) from two life tables to generate a comprehensive set of life tables for the entire reconstruction period. Both R functions are in their methodological core based on the Population Analysis System (PAS) Excel templates E0LGST and INTPLTF/INTPLTM. Furthermore, it was necessary to interpolate the intercensal data-points for population by age and sex using a linear interpolation function.

Source Data

For Costa Rica the major source of data on population by age, sex and educational attainment in the 20th century originates from the archives of the National Statistical Office of Costa Rica, from IPUMS and from Centro Latinoamericano de Demografia (CELADE). For the EDU20C reconstruction, we also used information on mortality extracted from the life tables published by Rosero & Caamano (1984).