Latest government data (from September 2016) puts the Cook Islands population at 19,400 people.

This figure includes short term visitors to the island, mainly tourists on holiday. The resident population of the Cook Islands (again from September 2016) is estimated to be 11,700.

There are no official estimates available for the 2017 population of the Cook Islands yet, but a census was undertaken in December 2016. The results, which should be available soon, will provide more up to date statistics.

Unless otherwise noted, statistics in this article are drawn from the results of the 2011 Cook Islands census.

How many people live in the Cook Islands today?

Results from the 2011 census indicated that there were 17,794 people on the Cook Islands on 1 December 2011. This was made up of 14,974 residents and 2,820 visitors, mostly tourists holidaying in the Cook Islands.

Of the Cook Islands residents, 7,409 were male and 7,484 were female.

Rarotonga is the most populous island in the Cooks, home to 10,572 residents and 2,523 of the 2,820 visitors.

Population Growth in the Cook Islands

Population in the Cook Islands varies from year to year.

Cook Islands Population by year chart

This is partly because within a small population a slightly higher than normal number of deaths or births in one year can have a dramatic affect on population figures.

It is also partly because many Cook Islanders spend time off the islands, living in other countries – primarily New Zealand, where they have citizenship.

The Cook Islands population grew steadily during the first half of the 20th century, from around 8,000 people in 1900 to just over 20,000 people (visitors and residents) in 1971.

After a small dip in the 1970s the population has stabilised at around 18,000 people, including around 15,000 residents.

The resident population of the Cook Islands at the last three censuses is as follows:

200114,990
200615,234
201114,974

Ethnic Groups in the Cook Islands

Cook Islands Maori are the largest ethnic group on the Cook Islands. 81% (12,180 people) reported that they were Cook Islands Maori and a further 7% (1,005 people) reported that they were part Cook Islands Maori.

Cook Islands Maori81% / 12,180 people
Part Cook Islands Maori7% / 1,005 people
Other ethnic origin12% / 1,789 people

The remaining 12% of respondents (1,789 people) reported that they were of another ethnic origin – most commonly of New Zealand European origin.

The ethnic composition of Rarotonga, the largest island, is different to the other islands in the country – almost all of the respondents who reported that they were of another ethnic origin live on Rarotonga.

Religion in the Cook Islands

94% of Cook Islanders reported that they were religious, and almost all of those respondents reported that they were associated with a Christian faith.

The four main churches on the Cook Islands are the protestant Cook Islands Christian Church (49%, 7,535 members), followed by the Roman Catholic Church (17%, 2,540 members), the Seventh Day Adventist Church (8%, 1,190 members) and the Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints (5%, 656 members).

Cook Islands Christian Church49% / 7,535 members
Roman Catholic Church17% / 2,540 members
Seventh Day Adventist Church8% / 1,190 members
No religion6% / 841 people
Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon)5% / 656 member

A further 841 people (6%) reported that they had no religion, and the remaining respondents reported that they were members of another, smaller, church.

Cook Islands languages

The two main languages in the Cook Islands are English and Cook Islands Maori. Both are official languages of the Cook Islands and over 90% of the Cook Islands population can speak and write in both languages.

While almost everyone is able to speak and write in English, the number who can speak and write in Cook Islands Maori varies, depending on ethnicity. Those who are Cook Island Maori are most likely to be fluent, followed by those who are part Cook Islands Maori and then those of other ethnic groups.

Cook Island Maori10,003 speakers of 12,180 people
Part Cook Island Maori422 speakers of 1,004 people
New Zealand European49 speakers out of 510 people
Fijian17 speakers out of 376 people

Cook Island Maori is closely related to New Zealand Maori. The language has been placed on the UNESCO endangered language list but with government support is actively being promoted and preserved.

Other languages in the Cook Islands include Penrhynese, Pukapukan and Rakahanga-Manihiki. They are also considered to be endangered languages.

Largest cities in the Cook Islands

Avarua, the capital city of the Cook Islands, is the only town or city on the Cook Islands of any significant size. It is located on the northern shore of Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands.

According to data from 2006, the population of Avarua is 5,445 people.

Largest islands in the Cook Islands

Instead of recording population by cities, it is more useful to record the Cook Islands population by island.

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, and the large majority of Cook Islanders live there. In 2011, the population of Rarotonga was 10,572 people.

Aitutaki is the second largest island, with a population of 1,771 people in 2011, followed by Mangaia, with a population of 562 people.

Here is a full list of the Cook Islands listing their 2011 resident population.

Island namePopulation
Aitutaki1,771
Atiu468
Mangaia562
Manihiki238
Manuae0
Mauke300
Mitiaro189
Nassau73
Palmerston60
Penrhyn213
Pukapuka451
Rakahanga77
Rarotonga10,572
Suwarrow0

The Cook Islands are divided into two groups, north and south. This classification is also used at times to record population. The population of Rarotonga and the two Cook Islands groups in 2011, sorted by resident population, is as follows:

Rarotonga10,572 people
Southern Group3,290 people
Northern Group1,112 people

Education and Literacy Rate

The Cook Islands spends 3.1% of GDP on education. Education is compulsory for all children from 5-15 years.

The literacy rate in the Cook Islands is 95%

Many students go on to further and higher (university) education outside of the Cook Islands, normally at universities in New Zealand.

An increasing number of students are choosing to study at the University of the South Pacific, which has a Cook Islands campus and delivers many courses remotely or by distance learning.

Other Cook Islands demographic data

Data in this section is drawn from the CIA World Factbook article about the Cook Islands. Data, unless otherwise noted, is from 2015.

Sex ratio

At birth the ratio is 1.04 male(s)/female, which is slightly below the world average of 1.06 male(s)/female.

Cook Islands sex ratio at birth1.04 male(s)/female
World average sex ratio at birth1.06 male(s)/female

At higher ages, however, the ratio is more strongly skewed in favour of males than females compared to the rest of the world.

Cook Islands total sex ratio1.07 male(s)/female
World average total sex ratio0.79 male(s)/female

The ratio across the total population is 1.07 male(s)/female, which is considerably higher than the world average of 0.79 male(s)/female.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy in the Cook Islands is 75.6 years. Cook Island males can expect to live for 72.7 years, and females can expect to live for 78.6 years.

Overall life expectancy75.6 years
Male life expectancy72.7 years
Female life expectancy78.6 years

Median age

The Cook Islands has a relatively young population. Median age in the Cook Islands is 35.25 years.

Median Age35.25 years
Male Median Age34.6 years
Female Median Age35.7 years

For males, the median age is 34.6 years and for females the median age is 35.7 years.

Birth and death rate

The birth rate in the Cook Islands is 14.33 births/1,000 population. This is below the global average of 19.15 births/1,000 population.

Cook Islands Birth Rate14.33 births per 1,000 population
World Average Birth Rate19.15 births per 1,000 population

The death rate in the Cook Islands is 8.03 deaths/1,00 population. This is slightly above the global average of 7.89 deaths/1,000 population.

Cook Islands Death Rate8.03 births per 1,000 population
World Average Death Rate7.89 deaths per 1,000 population

Fertility rate

The fertility rate in the Cook Islands is 2.23 children per woman.

Cook Islands Fertility Rate2.23 children per woman
World Replacement Fertility Rate2.33 children per woman

This is only slightly below the replacement fertility rate (the rate needed to sustain a population) which is 2.33 children per woman.

Coconut consumption

The Cook Islands is one of the few countries in the world to ask a question about coconut consumption as a part of its census.

Household consumption28,461 coconuts
Livestock consumption123,427 coconuts
Other uses5,647 coconuts

The survey revealed that 2,947 households in the Cook Islands used 28,461 coconuts every week. That’s 10 coconuts per home per week.

Coconuts are also widely used for feeding livestock. 1,645 households reported using coconuts to feed animals, going through a total of 123,427 coconuts per week. That’s 75 coconuts per household per week.

The census also reported that 5,647 coconuts were used by 117 households for other, unspecified purposes.
There are a lot of coconuts on the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands population pyramid

The image below is of the Cook Islands 2016 population pyramid.

Cook Islands population pyramid 2016