Costa Rican Americans
0.05% of the U.S. population (2018)
|Regions with significant populations|
|New York Metro Area, Greater Los Angeles, South Florida|
|American English, Spanish|
|Predominantly Roman Catholic, minority Protestant|
The Costa Rican population in 2018 was 154,784. Costa Ricans are the fourth smallest Hispanic group in the United States and the smallest Central American population.
Costa Rican populations are prominent in the New York Metropolitan Area, especially in North Central New Jersey (Essex County, New Jersey, Passaic County, New Jersey, Somerset County, New Jersey, and Union County, New Jersey). Additional areas with significant Costa Rican residents include New York City, Suffolk County, New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut. There are also sizable groups of Costa Ricans in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, South Florida metropolitan area, and Lincoln County, North Carolina.
Costa Rican immigration to the United States has historically been low, unlike patterns of immigration from many other Latin American countries, which tend to occur in waves in response to historical events like civil war, political conflict, or severe economic conditions. Costa Rica has not experienced any significant political disturbances since the Costa Rican Civil War in 1948. Therefore, most migration to the United States from Costa Rica is based on economic factors and occurs slowly when compared to migration from the rest of Latin America. Costa Rican immigration to the United States, as a percentage of total immigration from Central America, has been declining since 1960. In the period from 1960 to 2009, total immigration from Costa Rica to the United States represented only 3 percent of total immigration from Central America over the same period. Lower prices and higher wages in the United States serve as strong motivators for Costa Ricans to emigrate. As with many other groups of immigrants, Costa Ricans send roughly $650 million in remittances every year to support their families in Costa Rica.
The largest communities of Costa Ricans in the United States are in California, Texas, Florida, and the New York metropolitan area, including parts of New Jersey, the state with the highest percentage of individuals identifying as Costa Rican. The town of Bound Brook, New Jersey has the highest percentage of Costa Ricans at 11.82 percent. Reasons for the phenomenon of Costa Rican immigration to New Jersey specifically are unclear, but some, including Costa Rican consulate-general Ana Villalobos and Costa Rican ambassador to the United States Roman Macaya, have posited that this immigration occurs along existing familial ties beginning with the first Costa Rican immigrants to the United States. Villalobos described her understanding of the immigration:
I have no idea why so many Costa Ricans go to Bound Brook. I've been trying to figure it out. It's not like there's a lot of jobs there. I guess a group of people came there, the people of Bound Brook were friendly to them and they [the Costa Ricans] told their friends.
Former President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solis recognized the special case of Costa Ricans in Bound Brook when he visited the town in 2014 to celebrate Costa Rica's independence while in the United States for a United Nations conference. Naturalization rates among Costa Ricans have remained fairly steady since 2000. In 2000, 1,895 individuals who identified their country of origin as Costa Rica became naturalized citizens of the United States. In 2017, there were 1,720 individuals of the same category who became naturalized. In the period from 2000 to 2009, 45.7 percent of all Costa Rican immigrants to the United States became naturalized citizens, close to the average for most immigrant groups. In 2000, 1,324 Costa Ricans were admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents. In 2017, 2,184 individuals of the same category were admitted.
Figures from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service suggest that illegal immigration from Costa Rica is low. However, according to reporting from the Washington Post, illegal immigrants do travel along connections set up by businesses looking to take advantage of cheap undocumented labor. For example, The Trump Organization funneled illegal Costa Rican immigrants to Bedminster, New Jersey, where they worked on golf courses in various capacities along with illegal immigrants from other Latin American countries.
Unlike other Latin American groups, like Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans, which tend to congregate in neighborhoods frequently referred to as barrios, Costa Ricans assimilate into Anglo-American and/or other Latino cultures. Assimilation is common due in part to low absolute numbers of Costa Rican immigrants in the United States, so the formation of communities that are uniquely Costa Rican in character is uncommon.
Costa Rican Americans frequently participate in cultural traditions practiced by other Latin Americans, such as Cinco de Mayo and Mexico's independence, September 15, in addition to their own celebrations. As Costa Rican Americans assimilate into United States society, they leave behind some of their more traditional customs and adopt the practices of American holidays and special events, like the Fourth of July. As a result, second- and third-generation Americans of Costa Rican descent are generally not familiar with traditional aspects of Costa Rican culture as it is practiced in the country itself. However, in areas where there is a high concentration of Costa Rican immigrants like New Jersey, Costa Ricans will gather and engage in social activities, e.g. at Costa Rican institutions like the Restaurante Puerto Viejo.
Costa Rican Americans are religious and continue to practice their religion while in the United States. Assimilation of Costa Rican Americans often occurs when they are searching for a church to join, and they may attend services conducted in either English or Spanish.
A feature common to spoken Spanish in Costa Rica and other regions of Latin America is the voseo or ustedeo basic difference in Costa Rican Spanish. Younger generations of "Costa Rican" Americans are no longer using it as frequently in their spoken Spanish, likely due to intermingling with other Spanish-speaking immigrants from regions where the utilisation of the voseo does not occur.
Most of Costa Ricans who live in the US live in California, Florida, Texas, and the New York City / New Jersey area. The areas with the largest Costa Rican populations, in according to latter reports, are Los Angeles and its surrounding areas (23,625); New York City area (including parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island (12,985)); Miami and surrounding areas (Hialeah and Fort Lauderdale) (9,987); and in the Houston and Galveston area of Texas (2,534).
The geographical preferences of Costa Ricans become evident in the statistics from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as consistent with the findings of the 1990 census.
List of Costa Rican American communities
These are lists that indicated the largest populations of Costa Rican Americans according to states, residence areas and percentages.
The ten states with the largest population of Costa Ricans (Source: 2010 Census):
- California - 22,469
- Florida - 20,761
- New Jersey - 19,993
- New York - 11,576
- Texas - 6,982
- North Carolina - 4,658
- Georgia - 3,114
- Pennsylvania - 3,048
- Massachusetts - 2,951
- Connecticut - 2,767
The largest population of Costa Ricans are situated in the following areas (Source: Census 2010):
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA - 27,394
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA - 11,528
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA - 11,371
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA - 3,207
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSA - 3,125
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA - 2,717
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA - 2,617
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA - 2,433
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA - 2,372
- Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA - 2,330
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA MSA - 2,321
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA - 2,296
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA - 2,292
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA - 2,025
- Trenton-Princeton, NJ MSA - 1,801
- San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA MSA - 1,749
- Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA - 1,618
- Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC MSA - 1,263
- Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ MSA - 1,200
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA - 1,027
US communities with largest population of people of Costa Rican ancestry
The top 25 US communities with the highest populations of Costa Ricans (Source: Census 2010):
- New York, NY - 6,673
- Los Angeles - 3,182
- Trenton, NJ - 1,279
- Paterson, NJ - 1,241
- Bound Brook, NJ - 1,229
- Miami, FL - 1,197
- Norwalk, CT - 1,024
- Summit, NJ - 990
- Houston, TX - 923
- Philadelphia, PA - 903
- San Diego, CA - 723
- Chicago, IL - 681
- Charlotte, NC - 673
- Elizabeth, NJ - 660
- Boston, MA - 652
- Somerville, NJ - 627
- Manville, NJ - 576
- Jacksonville, FL - 542
- San Francisco, CA - 487
- Bridgeport, CT - 478
- Hialeah, FL - 476
- Long Beach, CA - 467
- Dallas, TX - 462
- Newark, NJ - 444
- Lincolnton, NC - 431
US communities with high percentages of people of Costa Rican ancestry
The top 25 US communities with the highest percentages of Costa Ricans as a percent of total population (Source: Census 2010):
- Bound Brook, NJ - 11.82%
- Finderne, NJ - 6.43%
- Manville, NJ - 5.57%
- Somerville, NJ - 5.18%
- Summit, NJ - 4.61%
- Raritan, NJ - 4.16%
- Lincolnton, NC - 4.11%
- South Bound Brook, NJ - 3.09%
- Hampton Bays, NY - 2.98%
- Victory Gardens, NJ - 2.50%
- Clinton, NJ - 2.21%
- Delaware, NJ - 2.00%
- Belle Mead, NJ - 1.85%
- New Providence, NJ - 1.79%
- Dover, NJ - 1.73%
- Tuckahoe (Suffolk County), NY - 1.68%
- Prospect Park, NJ - 1.60%
- Flemington, NJ - 1.53%
- Trenton, NJ - 1.51%
- Maiden, NC - 1.39%
- Weston, NJ - 1.21%
- Westwood, NJ - 1.21%
- Norwalk, CT - 1.20%
- Bridgehampton, NY - 1.20%
- Lake Como, NJ - 1.19%
- "B03001 HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN - United States - 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. July 1, 2018. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
- "Welcome to Bound Brook, New Jersey, ground zero of Costa Rican migration to the US". The Tico Times Costa Rica. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- Terrazas, Aaron Terrazas Aaron (2011-01-10). "Central American Immigrants in the United States". migrationpolicy.org. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- Hutchinson, Dave (2014-09-20). "Costa Rican president to visit Bound Brook for celebration Sunday". nj.com. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- "Yearbook 2000". Department of Homeland Security. 2016-05-04. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- "Table 21. Persons Naturalized by Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal Years 2015 to 2017". Department of Homeland Security. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- "Table 3. Persons Obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident Status by Region and Country of Birth: Fiscal Years 2015 to 2017". Department of Homeland Security. 2018-08-14. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- Partlow, Joshua (February 8, 2019). "'My whole town practically lived there': From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years". Washington Post.
- Cida S. Chase, "Costa Rican Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 543-551. online
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- Chase, "Costa Rican Americans." (2014)
- QT-P10 Hispanic or Latino by Type: 2010
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- "EXCLUSIVE: Heather Hemmens: "I Have This Skin Tone That's Kind of Unidentifiable But It's Great"". Latina.com. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
- Chase, Cida S. "Costa Rican Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014), pp. 543-551. online