Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Religion and Labour Market Outcomes in Scotland, 1991-2011

Project Number:



Dr Neil Rowland, Prof Ian Shuttleworth, Prof Duncan McVicar

Start Date:

1st August 2020


This project seeks to analyse the relationship between religion and labour market outcomes in Scotland. Drawing inspiration from a large literature for Northern Ireland, it will investigate whether Catholics have a higher unemployment rate than Protestants in 1991, 2001 and 2011. It will also assess whether this differential varies across the population and whether religion affects related outcomes such as economic inactivity. Research questions: 1. Do Catholics have a higher unemployment rate than Protestants in 1991, 2001 and 2011? 2. Can the unemployment differential be explained by factors such as age, education, area of residence, and other factors? 3. Can the unemployment differential be reliably estimated for population sub-groups, e.g. among people who were born in Northern Ireland but live in Scotland? The project is part of a wider comparative analysis involving an ONS-LS project (currently underway) and a Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) project (completed). The findings of this SLS project will be compared to those for Northern Ireland. It is potentially informative to compare trends in Scotland because this region has a similar history of sectarianism and has experienced many of the same economic and social trends. Scotland did not, however, have a labour market that was argued to have been systemically discriminatory towards Catholics. By understanding how Catholics fare relative to Protestants in such an environment, this project seeks to learn about the importance of this and other contributory factors in the Northern Ireland context.


Aunger, E. A. (1975). Religion and occupational class in Northern Ireland. Economic and Social Review, 7(1):1--17.
Bruce, S., Glendinning, T., Paterson, I., & Rosie, M. (2005). Religious discrimination in Scotland: Fact or myth?. Ethnic and racial studies, 28(1), 151-168.
Doherty, P. and Osborne, R. D. (1979). Denomination and unemployment in Northern Ireland. Area, 11(3):216--219.
Murphy, A. and Armstrong, D. (1994). A picture of the Catholic and Protestant male unemployed. Technical report, Central Community Relations Unit Employment Equality Review, Research Report No. 2, Belfast
Osborne, R. D. and Shuttleworth, I., editors (2004). Fair Employment in Northern Ireland: A Generation On. Blackstaff Press, Belfast.
Paterson, L. (2000). The social class of Catholics in Scotland. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 163(3), 363-379.
Paterson, L., & Iannelli, C. (2006). Religion, social mobility and education in Scotland. The British journal of sociology, 57(3), 353-377.
Rowland, N., McVicar, D., & Shuttleworth, I. G. (2018). The Evolution of Catholic-Protestant Labour Market Inequality in Northern Ireland, 1983-2014.
Smith, D. J. and Chambers, G. (1991). Inequality in Northern Ireland. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
van Hoorn, André and Maseland, Robbert, (2013), Does a Protestant work ethic exist? Evidence from the well-being effect of unemployment, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 91, issue C
Walls, P., & Williams, R. (2004). Accounting for Irish Catholic ill health in Scotland: a qualitative exploration of some links between ‘religion’, class and health. Sociology of health & illness, 26(5), 527-556.

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