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The Evolution of Catholic-Protestant Labour Market Inequality in Northern Ireland, 1983-2014


  • Rowland, Neil

    () (Queen's University Belfast)

  • McVicar, Duncan

    () (Queen's University Belfast)

  • Shuttleworth, Ian

    () (Queen's University Belfast)


Ethnic and religious differentials in labour market outcomes within many countries have been remarkably persistent. Yet one very well-known differential – the Catholic/Protestant unemployment differential in Northern Ireland – has largely (although not completely) disappeared. This paper charts its decline since the mid-1980s and examines potential explanations using Census data from 1991, 2001 and 2011 together with annual survey data. These data span the ending of The Troubles, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the introduction of fair employment legislation, growth in hidden unemployment, and major structural changes in Northern Ireland. We assess the relative contributions of these changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Rowland, Neil & McVicar, Duncan & Shuttleworth, Ian, 2018. "The Evolution of Catholic-Protestant Labour Market Inequality in Northern Ireland, 1983-2014," IZA Discussion Papers 11633, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11633

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jo Blanden & Stephen Machin, 2013. "Educational Inequality and The Expansion of UK Higher Education," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 60(5), pages 578-596, November.
    2. David Armstrong, 1999. "Hidden Male Unemployment in Northern Ireland," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(6), pages 499-511.
    3. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    4. Jessica Gordon Nembhard & William Darity, 2000. "Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality: The International Record," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 308-311, May.
    5. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    6. Borooah, Vani K., 1999. "Is there a penalty to being a Catholic in Northern Ireland: an econometric analysis of the relationship between religious belief and occupational success1," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 163-192, June.
    7. Robert W. Fairlie & William A. Sundstrom, 1999. "The Emergence, Persistence, and Recent Widening of the Racial Unemployment Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 252-270, January.
    8. Blackaby, D.H. & Murphy, P.D. & O'Leary, N.C., 2008. "Employment discrimination in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 282-285, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jones, Melanie K. & Kaya, Ezgi, 2020. "The Gender Pay Gap: What Can We Learn from Northern Ireland?," IZA Discussion Papers 13318, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item


    labour market inequality; economic inactivity; religion; unemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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