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.

Nicaragua Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Managua is the country's capital and largest city and is also the third-largest city in Central America, behind Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City. The multi-ethnic population of six million includes people of indigenous, European, African, and Asian heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

Population density A measurement of population numbers per unit area or volume

Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and most of the time to humans. It is a key geographical term. In simple terms population density refers to the number of people living in an area per kilometer square.

Ethnic group Socially defined category of people who identify with each other

An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.


Demographics of Nicaragua
Population6,149,928(2016 est.) [1]
Male population2,839,168
Female population2,836,188
Population growth 1.855%
Birth rate 24.12/1,000
Death rate 4.42/1,000
Infant mortality rate27.14/1,000
Life expectancy 70.92 years
Demographic bureaus INEC

According to the 2017 revision of the World Population Prospects [1] , Nicaragua has a population of 6,149,928. [1] Mestizos (who are a mix of Native American and white) make up about 69% of the population, while whites make up 24%. The remainder of the Nicaraguan population is 9% black, and 5% Native American.

Mestizo race

Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines that originally referred to a person of combined European and Indigenous American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category in the casta system that was in use during the Spanish Empire's control of its American and Asian colonies. Nowadays though, particularly in Spanish America, mestizo has become more of a cultural term, with culturally mainstream Latin Americans regarded or termed as mestizos regardless of their actual ancestry and with the term Indian being reserved exclusively for people who have maintained a separate indigenous ethnic identity, language, tribal affiliation, etc. Consequently, today, the vast majority of Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are regarded as mestizos.

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.

Sandinista National Liberation Front Nicaraguan leftist political party, founded in 1961.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua.

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). [3]

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 million inhabitants reside in the Pacific region alone, while inhabitants in the Caribbean region only reach an estimated 700,000. [4]

Managua Place in Nicaragua

Managua is the capital and largest city of Nicaragua, and the center of an eponymous department. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua, it had an estimated population 1,042,641 in 2016 within the city's administrative limits and a population of 1,401,687 in the metropolitan area, which additionally includes the municipalities of Ciudad Sandino, El Crucero, Nindirí, Ticuantepe and Tipitapa.

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.

Census Acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include agriculture, business, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practice.


Nicaragua's total population, 2005. Number of inhabitants in thousands. Nicaragua-demography.png
Nicaragua's total population, 2005. Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Nicaraguan boys. Nicaragua boys.jpg
Nicaraguan boys.

According to the 2017 revision of the World Population Prospects [1] the total population was 6,149,928 in 2016, 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 . [5]

Total population
(x 1000)
aged 0–14
aged 15–64
aged 65+
19501 29543.054.22.8
19551 50845.252.12.7
19601 77547.450.02.5
19652 06349.248.32.5
19702 40048.149.42.5
19752 79847.150.22.6
19803 25047.150.12.7
19853 71047.150.02.9
19904 13846.050.93.2
19954 65944.052.63.4
20005 10140.955.43.7
20055 45537.858.14.1
20105 82234.560.94.6

Structure of the population


Structure of the population (01.07.2009) (estimates):

Age groupMaleFemaleTotal%
Total2 844 2442 898 0725 742 316100
0-4347 205332 920680 12511,84
5-9336 817323 279660 09611,50
10-14344 831332 925677 75611,80
15-19331 536329 072660 60811,50
20-24286 484290 439576 92310,05
25-29250 672260 730511 4028,91
30-34197 120214 967412 0877,18
35-39162 472174 845337 3175,87
40-44136 223143 572279 7954,87
45-49115 914124 028239 9424,18
50-5498 355107 733206 0883,59
55-5974 17380 156154 3292,69
60-6445 22148 46093 6811,63
65-6943 12146 23089 3511,56
70-7432 41835 44367 8611,18
75-7922 24925 95648 2050,84
80+19 43327 31746 7500,81
Age groupMaleFemaleTotalPercent
0-141 028 853989 1242 017 97735,14
15-641 698 1701 774 0023 472 17260,47
65+117 221134 946252 1674,39

Population distribution

Ninety percent of Nicaraguans live in the Pacific lowlands and the adjacent interior highlands. The population is 54% urban. 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 of the country. There are 2.7 million residents in the Pacific region. The Caribbean region has an estimated 700,000 residents. [4] In addition, many Nicaraguans live abroad.

Departments by population

Rank City Department Pop.Rank City Department Pop.
1 Managua Managua 1,262,97810 Estelí Estelí 201,548
2 Matagalpa Matagalpa 469,17211 Granada Granada 168,186
3 Chinandega Chinandega 378,97012 Jinotepe Carazo 166,073
4 León León 355,77913 Rivas Rivas156,283 Managua
5 Jinotega Jinotega 331,33514 Juigalpa Chontales 153,932 Town Square - Granada, Nicaragua.JPG
6 Bilwi RAAN 314,13015 Boaco Boaco 150,636
7 Bluefields RAAS 306,51016 Somoto Madriz 132,459
8 Masaya Masaya 289,98817 San Carlos Río San Juan 95,596
9 Ocotal Nueva Segovia 208,52318Total--5,142,098 (2005)
Source: National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). [7]

Vital statistics

Registration of vital events is in Nicaragua not complete. The Population Department of the United Nations prepared the following estimates. [5]

PeriodLive births
per year
per year
Natural change
per year
CBR*CDR*NC*TFR*IMR*Life expectancy
Life expectancy
for males
Life expectancy
for females
1950-195577 00032 00045 00054.923.031.97.2017242.340.943.7
1955-196089 00033 00056 00054.220.433.87.5015145.444.146.8
1960-196593 00033 00060 00048.517.031.57.1013148.747.350.0
1965-1970103 00032 00071 00046.314.431.96.9511452.050.553.4
1970-1975120 00033 00088 00046.312.633.76.799855.353.756.8
1975-1980137 00034 000102 00045.211.333.96.359057.655.360.0
1980-1985149 00035 000114 00042.910.132.75.858059.556.562.6
1985-1990150 00033 000117 00038.28.429.85.006562.259.065.5
1990-1995156 00029 000127 00035.46.528.94.504866.163.568.7
1995-2000147 00027 000120 00030.15.624.63.603468.465.971.1
2000-2005139 00026 000112 00026.
2005-2010140 00027 000113 00024.84.720.12.762272.969.976.0
* 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

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (Wanted Fertility Rate) and Crude Birth Rate (CBR): [8]

YearCBR (Total)TFR (Total)CBR (Urban)TFR (Urban)CBR (Rural)TFR (Rural)
1998293,6 (2,5)2,9 (2,0)5,0 (3,3)
2001273,2 (2,3)242,6 (1,8)314,4 (3,0)

Births and deaths [9]

YearPopulation (x1000)Live birthsDeathsNatural increaseCrude birth rateCrude death rateRate of natural increaseTFR
2010132 16519 944112 221

Ethnic groups

Ethnic groups in Nicaragua % [10]

   Mestizo (69%)
   White (24%)
   Black (9%)
   Native American (5%)

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.

An Afro-Nicaraguan. Afro-Nica.jpg
An Afro-Nicaraguan.

According to the 2005 census 443,847 (8.6%) residents consider themselves to belong to an indigenous people or to an ethnic community. [11] The remaining majority of the Nicaraguan population (91.6%) are deemed mestizo and white, with the majority of these being of Spanish, with some 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 resides on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean (or Atlantic) coast, is included in the majority population which does not consider itself to belong to an ethnic community. In the 2005 census, there were only 19,890 Creoles (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, a people of mixed Carib, Angolan, Congolese and Arawak descent, numbered 3,271 in 2005 (0.1%). 112,253 people considered themselves "Mestizo de la Costa Caribe" (mestizo of the Caribbean coast). In addition to the inhabitants who declared themselves Indigenous or Ethnic community, 13,740 answered "Other". Another 47,473 responded "Not Sure" and an additional 19,460 responded "Ignore".

Indigenous population

The Native American population, the unmixed descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants, numbered 227,760 (4.4% of the total population) in 2005. [11] Nicaragua's pre-Columbian consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region, the Nahua people (also known as the Pipil-Nicaraos) were present along with other groups such as the Chorotega people.

The central region and the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua were 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 Subtiaba (19,949 people) and modern-day Chorotegas who are also known as the Mangue (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 4,1850.9%Chorotega46,00210.4
Sumo 9,7562.2% Miskito 120.81727.2%
Ulwa6980.2% Matagalpa 15,2403.4%
Subtiaba19,9494.5% Nahua 11,1132.5


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. [4] However, in the 19th century, Nicaragua received immigrants from Europe, who established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banks.

The founding members of the Deutscher Club in Nicaragua, 1901 DeutscheClub.JPG
The founding members of the Deutscher Club in Nicaragua, 1901


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". [12] 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. [13] 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. [14] 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. [15] 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 [16]


Languages of Nicaragua
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 [17]

Languages in Nicaragua% [10]

   Spanish (95.3%)
   Miskito (2.2%)
   Mestizo (2%)
  Other (0.5%)

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. [18]

Nicaraguan Sign Language is also of particular interest to linguists.


Religious Affiliation in Nicaragua (census 2005 ) [10]
Roman Catholic 58.5%
Evangelical 21.6%
Moravian 1.6%
Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%
1Includes Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism among other religions.
Source: 2005 Nicaraguan Census [10]

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. [19]

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. [19]

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. [19]

See also


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PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website .