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Fertility and Population in Ireland, North and South

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This paper reviews and interprets recent demographic trends and prospects in the two Irelands, North and South. We discuss both the influence of religion on demographic behaviour, and the impact of demographic trends on the distribution by religion. In the Republic of Ireland, we show that the long-standing gap in marital fertility between Catholics and others had virtually disappeared by the 1980s. In Northern Ireland the gap is still there in the 1990s, though considerably reduced. However, estimates of its size hinge on how the significant proportion of non-respondents to the census question on religion are allocated. We identify some peculiarities of the non-respondent population which imply that it was more 'Catholic' in 1991 than first reports suggested. The Catholic share of Northern Ireland's population may accordingly be larger - 42 to 43 per cent - than previously thought. In both communities, the future of the Catholic share depends less on fertility than on migration patterns.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Economics, University College, Dublin

Publication date: July 1, 1995

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