Migrants and Access to Health Care in Costa Rica

Pablo Franceschi

In Costa Rica, about three quarters of the population thinks that Nicaraguans make disproportionate use of public health services and threaten the country’s welfare system. Yet various NGOs and academics claim that Nicaraguans actually have limited access to health services due to discrimination. Which claim is backed by empirical evidence? Find out in the research brief below. 

Costa Rica has the highest number of migrants in Latin America and one of the strongest social policy regimes.

Similar to other host countries, integration of immigrants in social services is controversial and is a subject of heated political debates. In the country there are two common views. On the one hand there are claims that there is disproportionate use of health services by migrants. On the other, there are claims that migrants have limited access to health services due to discrimination.

This research assessed whether either claim is backed by evidence using quantitative data.

Read the research brief

The research brief is available for download


The authors found no empirical support for either view. The share of migrant health care use is lower than their share in the population.

Despite qualitative evidence that suggests discrimination, no quantitative evidence was found of discrimination in health care access for migrants based on their nationality.

Dr Koen Voorend
M.Sc. Rebeca Sura-Fonseca - Ph.D.
More information

The paper was published World Development - 'Migrants and Access to Health Care in Costa Rica'. Read it online. 

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