In the second half of the twentieth century, Honduras underwent explosive population growth. In the 1910 census, the annual rate of population growth barely exceeded 1.5 percent. By 1950 it had reached 3 percent. From 1960 to 1990, the population growth rate climbed to 3.3 percent. By 1992 the annual population growth had slowed somewhat, but only to an estimated 2.8 percent.
The country's high birth rate has led Honduras's population to double about every twenty-five years. The 1950 census counted 1,368,605 inhabitants, almost twice as many as the 1926 census recorded. By 1974 the population had almost doubled once again. As of July 1992, the population was estimated to be 5,092,776.
Several factors have contributed to the rapid population rise. Honduras has consistently maintained high birth rates during the twentieth century. The crude birth rate (CBR--the annual number of births per 1,000 inhabitants) from the beginning to the midpoint of the century fluctuated between 41.7 and 44.5 births per 1,000 inhabitants. From around 1950 to 1975, Honduras had the highest CBR in Latin America. Since the mid-1970s, the CBR has dropped and steadied somewhat. In 1990 the CBR stood at 39 births per 1,000 inhabitants.
The total fertility rate (TFR-the average number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime) had dropped to 7.5 children per woman by the early 1970s. Since the 1970s, the TFR in Honduras has declined. In 1990 it was 5.2, and the projected TFR for the year 2000 is 4.1.
In 1993, however, the TFR varied considerably according to a woman's residence in rural or urban areas and according to income levels. Rural women had an average of 8.7 children while urban women had 5.3 children. The TFR for all upper and middle income women (rural and urban) was 5.8, while among lower income women it was approximately 8.0.
Regional differences in birth rates, coupled with internal migration, are expected to change Honduras's population distribution. The department of Cortés, with a high population growth rate, and the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios, heretofore thinly populated areas in the northeast, are expected to become the country's fastest growing areas. The emerging population pattern is one of significant growth in the central highlands near Tegucigalpa and along the entire Caribbean coast region from San Pedro Sula east to Gracias a Dios. The departments bordering El Salvador, in the southwest region of the country, are expected to have the slowest population growth rate.
The absorption of this expanding population represents a serious challenge to the Honduran government. Already inadequate health services, as well as poor educational, employment, and housing opportunities, will be increasingly burdened by a rapidly growing and young population. In 1989 slightly more than 2 million Hondurans, or 45 percent, were between one and fourteen years old. Frustrated expectations for a better standard of living among this youthful population raise the possibility of unrest in the future.
|Country Studies main page | Honduras Country Studies main page|