Saturday, May 18, 2013

Census 2011 - Third Release

The third release of census data provides us with a wealth of data on health, employment and housing, demographics and national identity in the North.

Some of the key points include:

  • 11% of middle aged Catholics assessed their general health as 'bad' or 'very bad' compared with 8% of middle aged Protestants.  
  • 9% of Catholics were unemployed at the time of the census as opposed to 6% of Protestants.
  • Catholics are less likely to be economically active although the gap has decreased from 4% to 0.5% since the last census.
  • 12% of Catholics live in over-crowed conditions compared with 6% of Protestants.
  • The average size of Catholic households is 2.72 persons compared to 2.41 in Protestant households
  • Protestants are more likely to live alone

In summary, Catholics in the North are in poorer health, are more likely to be un-employed and live in larger households compared with Protestants.


It was interesting to note that in the 2001 census, the 'tipping point' was age 24. At ages 24 and younger Catholics made up the majority of the population whereas at ages older than 24 Protestants made up the majority. This statistic was evident in table S306 of the 2001 census, as reflected in the graph below:

With the third release of the 2011 census, it is now possible to produce an up to date version of the graph:

In ten years the tipping point has increased by 12 years to the age of 36! Remember it is now 2013 so the tipping point will have increased a further 2.4 years to age 38.4!

We already know that since the 2001 census, the Catholic population has increased from 43.8% to 44.1% and the Protestant population has decreased from 53.1 to 48.3. With the third release, we now know the Catholic electorate population (aged 18 and over) is 43.8% (2001: 41.5) and the Protestant electorate population is 51.0 (2010: 56.2%).

52% of the Catholics in the North are under the age of 35 compared with 40% of Protestants. This tells us that under the age of 35, on census day there was 425,040 Catholics (817,385 x 52%) and 350,154 Protestants (875,385 x 40%), a majority of 75,000 Catholics. The split is 55/45.

National identity
  • 10% of Catholics identify as British (The Rory McIlroys of this world!)
  • 5% of Protestants identify as Irish
  • 25% of Catholics identify as Northern Irish
  • 15% of Protestants identify as Northern Irish
  • Over half of Protestants who identify as British only are over 65 years of age
  • 20% of school age Catholics have a good knowledge of Irish
  • 6% of Catholics over the age of 75 years old have a good knowledge of Irish


  1. Any breakdown on where the Catholics who call themselves Northern Irish live? I would bet a lot of them live in North Down Strangford and East Belfast. I bet they are also very thin on the ground in Fermanagh and South Tyrone as well as Mid-Ulster and West Tyrone. I wonder how many of the 5% of Protestants who call themselves Irish are in mixed marriages?

  2. I haven't looked into it too much to be hones. I see Northern Catholics who ticked the "Northern Irish" box as stating a geographical fact rather than making a political statement.

  3. I didn't realise only registered users could comment. Changed to 'anyone can comment' :)

  4. The 1 in 10 Catholics who identify themselves as British I wonder how many of them were born in the North? Some of them could be English or Scottish or even Welsh. Ex soldiers who served in the British Army and their families. The majority of the officers in the British Army are Roman Catholic.I also doubt the MI5 Base in Holywood employs many local people.

  5. Enda,
    Excellent stuff, hell of a lot of data in this release

  6. Would you now expect a slow decline in the % of Catholics, but at a slower rate than a decline in Protestants?

    Do you expect the % of the population that are Catholic to reach 50%, and if so when is your best guess?

  7. It would all depend on how much the other/no religion group grows percentage wise. For example if this group were to increase to 11% in the 2021 census you could be left with 44% Protestant and 45% Catholic. This would mean the Catholics will not have grown in terms of percentage but will not have grown in numbers. So yeah if the other group were to grow to 12% or more you could be right.

  8. Quick question how has the tipping point increased by 12 years since 2001 surely it would just be 10 unless a large number of 35 and 36 year old protestants have left Northern Ireland over the years.

  9. Quick question what has caused the tipping point to have incresed by 12 years after only a 10 year period

  10. Good question. I'll try and answer in my next post.

  11. Any thoughts on when a Catholic majority will happen? Also who are the "others"? They have to be SOMETHING. They are not empty vessels of nothingness. The term "others" seems almost a bit creepy. To the poster who said most British army officers are Catholic, can you cite a source? I have never heard of this.

  12. The gap between the two main blocks has decreased by 99,633 from 157,965 to 58,332 in the ten years to the 2011 census. This represents a reduction of nearly 10,000 per year. If current trends continue parity will be achieved at some point in 2016.

    However it will take longer for a majority catholic electorate. Under 18s cant vote but a motion to reduce the voting age to 16 was carried in the assembly. Also the Scottish referendum allows those aged 16 and over a vote so I can see it happening in Ireland too.