Panama ’s 1911 census, the country’s first, estimated its population at just 336,742. By the 2010 census it had grown to 3,322,576.
Panama is a young country: Nearly one-third of the population is 14 years or younger, and just 6 percent are older than 64.
Despite widespread poverty and high unemployment, Panamanians remain prosperous by Latin American standards. A primary-school education is compulsory, and more than 93 percent of the population aged 10 and older can read and write. Average life expectancy at birth is 75 years, about the same as in Poland. Women outlive men by nearly five years.
Panamanians often identify themselves by their family’s province of origin, each of which has regional stereotypes associated with it. There are nine provinces: Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Veraguas, Herrera, Los Santos, Coclé, Panamá, Colón, and Darién. There are also a number of comarcas (indigenous reservations) and in recent years the national legislature has been adding more by carving out territory from existing provinces.
More than two-thirds of Panama’s people live in urban areas. The most densely inhabited part of the country borders the Panama Canal , an area that encompasses Panama City  and Colón  and the most developed parts of the provinces (Panamá and Colón) that contain them.
Most of the rest of Panama’s population is concentrated on the Pacific hills and lowlands of the isthmus, particularly in the so-called central provinces of Coclé, Herrera, Los Santos, and Veraguas. This area, particularly the Azuero Peninsula , is considered by many Panamanians to be their heartland because of its preservation of traditional folklore and crafts, the Spanish Colonial architecture that can still be found in its provincial cities and towns, and its long agricultural history.
It occupies in the Panamanian imagination a place somewhere between that occupied by the Old West and the Great Plains in the gringo one. Not surprisingly, given its early settlement, it’s also the most severely deforested part of Panama.
The province of Chiriquí contains the fertile mountains of western Panama and the country’s second largest city, David  (pop. 77,734 in the central city, 124,280 in the entire district), in its humid lowlands. Chiricanos have a strong regional identity and are proud of their beautiful homeland. It’s sometimes said that they consider themselves Chiricanos first and Panamanians second.
Stickers depicting the provincial flag adorn the windows of many homes and the bumpers of many cars, and fake Chiriquí “passports” are sometimes sold as novelties in stores. The area around Volcán Barú , Panama’s highest mountain, has been experiencing a tourist boom in recent years, particularly the cozy town of Boquete .
Bocas del Toro  also feels somehow separate from the rest of Panama, but here it takes the form of neglect. Bocatoreños often complain of their region being treated as a backwater province. It is one of the few places in Panama that still cannot rely on a steady supply of clean water, which is one of the grievances that spark occasional demonstrations. Paradoxically, the islands of Bocas del Toro are developing rapidly thanks to a tourism explosion.
The Darién  (which traditionally includes both Darién province and the eastern side of Panama province) to the east and the Caribbean slope to the north are still mostly forested and lightly populated, though that’s changing rapidly.