Demographics of Nicaragua

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Nicaragua, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Demographics of Nicaragua
Managua, capital and largest city of Nicaragua
Population 6,100,000 (2012 est.)[1]
Male population 2,839,168
Female population 2,836,188
Population growth 1.855%
Birth rate 24.12/1,000
Death rate 4.42/1,000
Infant mortality rate 27.14/1,000
Life expectancy 70.92 years
Nationality Nicaraguan
Demographic bureaus INEC

According to the CIA World Factbook, Nicaragua has a population of 5,675,356. Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and white) make up about 69% of the population, and whites 17%. The remainder of the Nicaraguan population is 9% black, and 5% Amerindian.

Nicaraguan demographics reflected a different composition prior to the Sandinista revolution of 1979 since most of the migration during the years that followed were primarily of upper or middle class Nicaraguans, a group primarily made up of whites. A growing number of these expats have returned, while many continue to live abroad.

The 42.5% of the Population live below to the poverty line,[2] The general poverty rate is estimated of 47.3% , although much of the population lives in the lower middle class because of low salaries and a minimal amount of PIB (US$1000–3000)INIDE.

The most populous city in the country is the capital city, Managua, with a population of 1.2 million (2005). As of 2005, over 4.4 million inhabitants live in the Pacific, Central and North regions, 2.7 in the Pacific region alone, while inhabitants in the Caribbean region only reach an estimated 700,000.[3]

The Census Bureau in Nicaragua is the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). The institution is in charge of completing censuses and surveys. INEC ran its first census in 1906, the last census was taken in 2005, it was the eighth to date.


Nicaragua's total population, 2005. Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Nicaraguan boys.

According to the 2012 revison of the World Population Prospects the total population was 5,822,000 in 2010, compared to only 1,295,000 in 1950. The proportion of children below the age of 15 in 2010 was 34.5%, 60.9% was between 15 and 65 years of age, while 4.6% was 65 years or older .[4]

Total population
(x 1000)
aged 0–14
aged 15–64
aged 65+
1950 1 295 43.0 54.2 2.8
1955 1 508 45.2 52.1 2.7
1960 1 775 47.4 50.0 2.5
1965 2 063 49.2 48.3 2.5
1970 2 400 48.1 49.4 2.5
1975 2 798 47.1 50.2 2.6
1980 3 250 47.1 50.1 2.7
1985 3 710 47.1 50.0 2.9
1990 4 138 46.0 50.9 3.2
1995 4 659 44.0 52.6 3.4
2000 5 101 40.9 55.4 3.7
2005 5 455 37.8 58.1 4.1
2010 5 822 34.5 60.9 4.6

Population distribution[edit]

Ninety percent of Nicaraguans live in the Pacific lowlands and the adjacent interior highlands. The population is 54% urban with Managua (capital) being the largest city, home to over a million inhabitants. In addition, many Nicaraguans live abroad. The most populous city in Nicaragua is the capital city, Managua, with a population of 1.2 million (2005). As of 2005, over 4.4 million inhabitants live in the Pacific, Central and North regions. There are 2.7 million in the Pacific region. The Caribbean region has an estimated 700,000 residents.[3]

Departments by population[edit]

Rank City Department Pop. Rank City Department Pop.
1 Managua Managua 1,262,978 10 Estelí Estelí 201,548
2 Matagalpa Matagalpa 469,172 11 Granada Granada 168,186
3 Chinandega Chinandega 378,970 12 Jinotepe Carazo 166,073
4 León León 355,779 13 Rivas Rivas 156,283 Managua
5 Jinotega Jinotega 331,335 14 Juigalpa Chontales 153,932 Town Square - Granada, Nicaragua.JPG
6 Bilwi RAAN 314,130 15 Boaco Boaco 150,636
7 Bluefields RAAS 306,510 16 Somoto Madriz 132,459
8 Masaya Masaya 289,988 17 San Carlos Río San Juan 95,596
9 Ocotal Nueva Segovia 208,523 18 Total -- 5,142,098 (2005)
Source: National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).[5]

Vital statistics[edit]

Registration of vital events is in Nicaragua not complete. The Population Department of the United Nations prepared the following estimates. [4]

Period Live births
per year
per year
Natural change
per year
CBR* CDR* NC* TFR* IMR* Life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy
1950-1955 77 000 32 000 45 000 54.9 23.0 31.9 7.20 172 42.3 40.9 43.7
1955-1960 89 000 33 000 56 000 54.2 20.4 33.8 7.50 151 45.4 44.1 46.8
1960-1965 93 000 33 000 60 000 48.5 17.0 31.5 7.10 131 48.7 47.3 50.0
1965-1970 103 000 32 000 71 000 46.3 14.4 31.9 6.95 114 52.0 50.5 53.4
1970-1975 120 000 33 000 88 000 46.3 12.6 33.7 6.79 98 55.3 53.7 56.8
1975-1980 137 000 34 000 102 000 45.2 11.3 33.9 6.35 90 57.6 55.3 60.0
1980-1985 149 000 35 000 114 000 42.9 10.1 32.7 5.85 80 59.5 56.5 62.6
1985-1990 150 000 33 000 117 000 38.2 8.4 29.8 5.00 65 62.2 59.0 65.5
1990-1995 156 000 29 000 127 000 35.4 6.5 28.9 4.50 48 66.1 63.5 68.7
1995-2000 147 000 27 000 120 000 30.1 5.6 24.6 3.60 34 68.4 65.9 71.1
2000-2005 139 000 26 000 112 000 26.3 5.0 21.2 3.00 26 70.9 68.0 73.8
2005-2010 140 000 27 000 113 000 24.8 4.7 20.1 2.76 22 72.9 69.9 76.0
* CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births; TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman)

Fertility and births[edit]

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and Crude Birth Rate (CBR):[6]

Year CBR (Total) TFR (Total) CBR (Urban) TFR (Urban) CBR (Rural) TFR (Rural)
1998 29 3,6
2001 27 3,2 24 2,6 31 4,4
2006-2007 2,7 2,2 3,5
2011/2012 2,4 2,1 2,9

Ethnic groups[edit]

Group Number
Mestizo (69%) 2,915,995
White (17%) 1,964,810
Black (9%) 510,782
Amerindian (5%) 283,767
Source: CIA World Factbook (2007)
See also: Nicaraguans

In the 19th century, there had been a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was also largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority. Primarily in the 19th century, Nicaragua saw several waves of immigration from other European nations. In particular the northern cities of Estelí, Jinotega and Matagalpa have significant fourth generation Germans. Most of Nicaragua's population lives in the western region of the country in the departments of Managua, Granada and Léon.

According to the 2005 census 443,847 (8.6%) residents consider themselves to belong to an indigenous people or to an ethnic community.[7] The remaining majority of the Nicaraguan population (91.6%) are deemed Mestizo and white, with the majority of these being of Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese and French ancestry. Mestizos and whites mainly reside in the western region of the country.

Possibly also a part of the black or Afro-Nicaraguan population, which mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean or Atlantic coast are included in the majority population which do not consider itself to belong to an ethnic community. At the 2005 census there were only 19,890 Creole (0.4% of the total population). The Creole population is mostly of West Indian (Antillean) origin, the descendants of indentured laborers brought mostly from Jamaica when the region was a British protectorate.

The Garifuna numbered 3,271 in 2005 (0.1%), a people of mixed Carib, Angolan, Congolese and Arawak descent. 112,253 people considered themselves 'Mestizo de la Costa Caribe'. In addition to the inhabitants who declared themselves Indigenous or Ethnic comminity, 13,740 answered "Other". Another 47,473 responded "Not Sure" and an additional 19,460 responded "Ignore".

Indigenous population[edit]

The Amerindian population, the unmixed descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants, numbered 227,760 (4.4% of the total population) in 2005.[7] Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region the Nicarao people (11,113 or 0.2%), whom the country is named after, were present along with other groups related by culture and language to the Mayans.

The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were mostly chibcha related groups that had migrated from South America, primarily present day Colombia and Venezuela. These groups include the Miskitos (120,817 people), Matagalpa (15,240 people), Ramas (4,185 people), Sumos (9,756 people) and Ulwa (698 people). Other indigenous peoples include the Sutiva (19,949 people) and the Mange (46,002 people).

In the 19th century, there was still a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority. In the mid-1980s, the government divided the department of Zelaya – consisting of the eastern half of the country — into two autonomous regions and granted the black and indigenous people of this region limited self-rule within the Republic.

Those belonging to recognized indigenous communities (2005)
Rama 4,185 0.9% Chorotega 46,002 10.4
Sumo 9,756 2.2% Miskito 120.817 27.2%
Ulwa 698 0.2% Matagalpa 15,240 3.4%
Sutiava 19,949 4.5% Nicarao 11,113 2.5


Relative to its overall population, Nicaragua has never experienced any large scale wave of immigrants. The total number of immigrants to Nicaragua, both originating from other Latin American countries and all other countries, never surpassed 1% of its total population prior to 1995. The 2005 census showed the foreign-born population at 1.2%, having risen a mere .06% in 10 years.[3] This is not to say that immigrants were not important to the evolution of Nicaraguan society and the Nicaraguan nation.

The founding members of the Deutscher Club in Nicaragua, 1901

In the 19th century Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium generally moved to Nicaragua to set up businesses with money they brought from Europe. They established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banks.

There is also a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrian, Armenian, Palestinian Nicaraguan, Jewish Nicaraguan, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a total population of about 30,000. There is also an East Asian community of Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese. The Chinese Nicaraguan population is estimated at around 12,000[citation needed]. The Chinese arrived in the late 19th century but were unsubstantiated until the second census (in 1920) revealed 400 people of the japenese nationality.


During the Nicaraguan Revolution and the Civil War, thousands of Nicaraguans left the country. After the 1990 Nicaraguan Elections some people returned, but many more emigrated during the rest of the decade. In 1998, the Hurricane Mitch killed almost 4,000 people in the country and destroyed much of the Nicaraguan economy, as a result thousands of Nicaraguans received the TPS for emigrate to the United States as "refugees".[8] In recent years, many Nicaraguans had left the country to escape poverty and unemployment.

Nicaraguan emigration is a recent process. During the 1990–2004 period, more than 800,000 Nicaraguans left the country, compared to 100,000 during the 1970–1989 period.[9] According to the World Bank, in 2005 there were 683,520 Nicaraguans living outside Nicaragua legally. If those who are undocumented are counted, some sources estimate as many as 1,500,000 Nicaraguans living abroad by the end of 2005.[10] Nicaraguans are the third largest community of Central Americans living abroad, after Guatemalans and Salvadorans. Nicaragua is also the second country in Central America by percentage of population living abroad.

Remittances to Nicaragua represent about 15% of the country's GDP.[11] In 2008 Nicaragua received close to one billion dollars in remittances; an increase from the $750,000,000 received in 2007, according to the World Bank[12]


Languages of Nicaragua
Language Speakers
Arabic 400
Chinese 7,000
English 20,334
Garífuna 1,500
Miskito 154,400
Sign language 3,000
Spanish 4,347,000
Sumo 6,700
Rama 24
Creole English 30,000
Source: Ethnologue[13]

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish, or Nicañol as Nicaraguan Spanish is sometimes referred to, and is spoken by the country's population. In Nicaragua the Voseo form is common, just as in other countries in Central and South America like Honduras, Argentina, and Uruguay. Spanish has many different dialects spoken throughout Latin America, Central American Spanish is the dialect spoken in Nicaragua.


Some other characteristics of Nicaraguan phonology include:

  • /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is pronounced like [h].
  • j (/x/), is aspirated; it is soft as the /h/ in English (e.g.: Yahoo).
  • Intervocalic /b/, /d/, and /g/ show no sign of reduction, and are much more pronounced than in most dialects.
  • In some regions the double /l/ is pronounced with a ( "Shhh") sound, Argentina has a similar accent.
  • There is no confusion between /l/ and /r/, as in the Caribbean.
  • /s/, /z/ and in some cases /c/ (as in cerrar) are pronounced as [s]
  • /m/ at the end of a word tends to be pronounced as [n]

Nicaraguans on the Caribbean coast speak their indigenous languages and also English. The indigenous peoples of the east who use their original language tend to also speak Spanish and/or English, the main languages being Miskito language, Sumo language, and Rama language. Creole languages are also present in the Caribbean coast, Nicaragua Creole English has 30,000 speakers.

Nicaragua has many minority groups. Many ethnic groups in Nicaragua, such as the Chinese Nicaraguans and Palestinian Nicaraguans, have maintained their ancestral languages while also speaking Spanish and/or English. Minority languages include Chinese, Arabic, German, Italian among others. Nicaragua also has a total of 3 extinct languages.[14]

Nicaraguan Sign Language is also of particular interest to linguists.


Main article: Religion in Nicaragua
Religious Affiliation in Nicaragua (census 2005)
Religion Percentage
Roman Catholic 58.5%
Evangelical 21.6%
Moravian 1.6%
Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%
None 15.7%
Other1 1.6%
1 Includes Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism among other religions.
Source: 2005 Nicaraguan Census[15]

Religion is a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and forms part of the constitution. Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance is promoted by both the Nicaraguan government and the constitution. Bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed. They can also be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis.[16]

Although Nicaragua has no official religion it is nominally Roman Catholic. Practicing Roman Catholics are no longer the majority and are declining while evangelical Protestant groups and Mormons are growing rapidly have been growing since the 1990s. There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast.

Roman Catholicism came to Nicaragua in the 16th century with the Spanish conquest and remained, until 1939, the established faith. Protestantism and various Christian sects came to Nicaragua during the 19th century, but only during the 20th century have Protestant denominations gained large followings in the Caribbean Coast of the country. Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intermediaries between human beings and God.[16]

Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honor patron saints selected from the Roman Catholic calendar with annual fiestas. In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints, such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honored in August with two colorful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city. The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purísima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, during which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces.[16]

See also[edit]



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

External links[edit]