Country Listing

Nicaragua Table of Contents



Population: In 1993 population estimated at 4.08 million. Rate of annual growth calculated at about 3.4 percent-- one of highest in Latin America. Population density 32 persons per square kilometer in 1990--lowest in Central America. Most of population concentrated in Pacific lowlands; Caribbean lowlands sparsely settled. Population 55 percent urban, with urban growth nearly twice that of rural areas.

Ethnic Groups: Although definitions imprecise, approximately 76 percent of population mestizo, 10 percent European, about 3 percent indigenous, estimated 11 percent Creole or African. Indigenous, Creole, and African populations dominate in east; ladinos (culturally Hispanic mestizos and Europeans) mainly in Pacific lowlands and central highlands.

Languages: Spanish official language, spoken by almost everyone in Pacific lowlands and central highlands. English predominant language in Caribbean lowlands. Miskito predominant indigenous language, also spoken in east. Spanish widely used as second language in east.

Education and Literacy: Educational system underfunded and generally inadequate. Access to education improved during 1980s, with introduction of free education, but large majority of population was not completing primary schooling in 1993. Literacy reported at about 50 percent at end of Somoza regime. Literacy campaign in 1980 reportedly raised functional literacy rate to about 77 percent.

Health and Welfare: Health indicators generally poor; life expectancy at birth 62 years in 1991; infant mortality rate 72 per 1,000 live births in 1989; high incidence of malnutrition; high incidence of infectious diseases, mainly enteritis, malaria and tuberculosis; relatively low incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Health care system inadequate despite modest improvement during 1980s; Welfare indicators generally poor; approximately 70 percent of population below poverty line; nearly 50 percent unemployed or underemployed; access to safe drinking water and basic public services generally poor, especially in rural areas and Caribbean coast; quality of housing poor in urban shantytowns, with acute housing shortage in capital.

Data as of December 1993