Costa Rica: A Third World Country?


When many people hear the words “third world country,” they often conjure up images of poverty, crime, and corruption. However, this term can be misleading, and it’s important to understand the complexities of different countries and their economic statuses. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Costa Rica, a country that is often referred to as a third world nation, and examine whether or not this label is accurate.

What is a Third World Country?

Before we dive into Costa Rica specifically, let’s first define what we mean by “third world country.” This term was originally used during the Cold War era to describe countries that were not aligned with either the capitalist first world or the communist second world. Over time, the term has evolved to also encompass economic factors, with third world countries generally being defined as those with low levels of economic development, high poverty rates, and limited access to resources.

The Reality of Costa Rica

So, where does Costa Rica fit into this definition? While the country is certainly not as wealthy as some of its neighbors in North America, it also doesn’t fit neatly into the third world category. In fact, Costa Rica is often considered a middle-income country, with a relatively high standard of living compared to other nations in Central and South America.

Economic Growth

One of the key reasons why Costa Rica has been able to achieve a relatively high level of economic development is due to its focus on education and technology. The country has invested heavily in these areas over the past few decades, which has helped to attract foreign investment and create new job opportunities. As a result, Costa Rica has experienced consistent economic growth, with its GDP per capita increasing from $2,416 in 1990 to $11,630 in 2020.

Poverty Rates

While Costa Rica has certainly made progress in terms of economic development, it still faces significant challenges when it comes to poverty. According to the World Bank, around 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, with higher rates among indigenous and rural communities. This is certainly a concerning figure, but it’s important to note that poverty rates have been decreasing over time, and many government programs are focused on addressing this issue.

Environmental Concerns

Another issue that has been at the forefront of discussions about Costa Rica’s development is the impact on the environment. The country is known for its beautiful natural landscapes and biodiversity, but these resources are also under threat due to deforestation, pollution, and other factors. Many activists and organizations have been pushing for stronger environmental protections and sustainable development practices.


In conclusion, while Costa Rica may not fit neatly into the “third world country” label, it still faces significant economic and social challenges. It’s important to recognize the progress that has been made, while also acknowledging the work that still needs to be done. Ultimately, whether or not Costa Rica is considered a third world country is less important than the efforts being made to improve the lives of its citizens and protect its environment.