Thursday 4 June 2009

Thoughts on marriage

As summer starts, many people are planning their weddings. The months of July, August and September are the most popular months for getting married, and on most Saturdays in these months big churches will probably host at least one wedding.

But marriage is not as popular as it was. From a peak of 12,297 weddings in 1970, the total in Northern Ireland has fallen to a little over 8,000 in recent years. And although all religions have shared in that decline, the drop in Protestant weddings has been little less than catastrophic over the past half-century.

In 1957, for example, Protestant weddings accounted for 64.3% of all weddings, and Catholic weddings for less than half of that figure – 29.9%. In that year there were 2,377 weddings in the Church of Ireland, 2,809 in the Presbyterian Church, and 507 in the Methodist Church. Half a century later, in 2007 (the latest year for which figures are available), the figures are: C of I – 953 (a 60% drop), Presbyterian – 1,164, (a 59% drop) and Methodist – 210 (59% drop). Catholic weddings, however, increased from 2,811 in 1957 to 3,227 in 2007.


What does this mean, and is it important?

Well, for most people, getting married is the prelude to starting a family, or at least regularising an existing family. The religion of the wedding will tend to be the religious ethos of the family. And, of course, the religious ethos of the family is very closely linked to the political ethos of the family members.


So if, as the graph shows, the proportion of Protestant weddings is falling (and showing no sign of bottoming out) while the proportion of Catholic weddings is holding steady (and now exceeds the proportion of Protestant weddings), then it is very likely that the number of future households in which a nationalist ethos predominates will exceed the number in which a unionist ethos predominates.

As we have seen, there tend to be more children in Catholic households than in Protestant ones, so this will amplify the effect of the drop in Protestant weddings. There will be more Catholic households containing more children, who will, unless attitudes change dramatically, grow up more likely to vote nationalist.

The last half-century has also seen a large increase in the number and proportion of weddings in Registry Offices. But these are more likely to be re-marriages of older or divorced people than 'first-time' Church marriages, and are therefore less likely to produce children. The Church marriages are likely to provide a good indication of the religious (and political) affiliations of the next generation.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not forgetting of course there are Catholics like myself who choose to get married south of the border although resident in the north.

Pedro said...

How many mixed marriages are there?

Anonymous said...

Curious, anybody have any statistics on the people that move to the North from the Republic?

hoboroad said...

And a number of friends of mine have got married abroad but are still resident in the 6 Counties.

hoboroad said...

Roll on the next General Election might not have long to wait!

Horseman said...

In a short blog like this I cannot go into detail on every permutation (unfortunately). But I think that the numbers of weddings outside NI probably breaks down in the same proportion as those within NI - at least there is no reason to suspect otherwise.

And while some will get married in the south, equally some southern residents will get married in the north - again this is unquantifiable but probably the two balance each other out.

Mixed marriages are more problmatic. There are an increasing number, but NISRA doesn't gather stats on them. the Life and Times polls do, but they are notoriously inaccurate. I suspect that such mixed marriages make up the bulk of the Registry Office weddings that are not re-marriages of divorcees.

How the children of mixed marriages will contribute to the political mix in NI is a big mystery. Some undoubtedly identify with one 'tribe' or the other, and some become Alliance voters. I don't think anyone is doing any research on them, but it would make a very interesting thesis.

hoboroad said...

Also I wonder how many people from here are returning home from the USA Canada and Down Under because of the economic downturn?Home comforts and all that.I know my 2 cousins returned from the land of Oz a couple of months ago.Also if you living illegally in the USA it must be tough the service sector has taken a battering and that is where most illegals work.And I am pretty sure the building industry is the same.

Dazzler said...

Id say more people will be heading off than returning in the current economic climate.

Mack said...

Horseman

And while some will get married in the south, equally some southern residents will get married in the north - again this is unquantifiable but probably the two balance each other out.

Highly unlikely. Until the collapse of sterling last year only about 10% of the southern population had ever visited the north. The percentage of northerners who had been south was way higher.

I don't think the north has much of a romantic (or even just a 'premium' destination) reputation in the south (unlike Italy for example). A reasonable number of births every year in NI are to southern residents (but these aren't counted in the published NISRA figures).

Mack said...

Anonymous said...

Curious, anybody have any statistics on the people that move to the North from the Republic?

The 2001 census would suggest these were more than balanced out by immigration from England, Scotland and Wales in the past. Also the Protestant proportion of immigrants from the south seemed to be higher than the general southern population.

I note that southern applications to Northern Irish and British universities have surged this year due to the increased cost of attending University in the south.

http://www.independent.ie/education/features/irish-students-head-to-uk-over-fee-fear-1759268.html

Also with the downturn, large numbers are applying to join the PSNI..


http://www.herald.ie/national-news/1in10-chasing-psni-posts-is-from-republic-1750973.html

Nordie Northsider said...

I wonder about the reverse trend - Nordies moving south. It would be a hard one to quantify because most of them are of nationalist mindset and would give Irish as their nationality in the census.

hoboroad said...

345,000 jobs lost in United States Of America in May.Unemployment rate now at 9.4 percent.Source The New York Times.

Mack said...

Nordie Northsider -

Northerners living down south can still vote in NI elections (unlike northerners living in Britain). They just need to register as an overseas voter.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/UKgovernment/Politicalpartiesandelections/DG_073241

hoboroad - Live register up over 400k down here :(

Nordie Northsider said...

Thanks for that, Mack. I imagine, though, that a good few Northerners settle in the Republic for good and shift their voting to constituencies in this state. Ten people from my university year now live in Dublin, for example. I wonder what the demographic impact of that sort of movement may be.

Mack said...

Nordie Northsider -

I think they can do that and keep their vote up north - if it is an overseas vote...

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