Data Insight: Using the Earnings and Employees Study 2011 to estimate Catholic-Protestant wage differentials

The Earnings and Employees Study (EES) 2011 links wage and employment data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) for 2011 with detailed individual and household characteristics information, including religious denomination and community background, from the 2011 Census. Analysing this linked data, we find no evidence of either a Catholic wage penalty or premium in 2011, with estimated wage gaps small in magnitude and statistically insignificant in unadjusted and adjusted models. 

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Why it matters

This study provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of communal wage inequalities in Northern Ireland, enabled by the newly available EES data for 2011.

The null finding makes sense given the many structural changes in Northern Ireland’s society and labour market since the late 1980s. It is consistent with the historic easing (if not complete eradication) of Catholic-Protestant unemployment differentials since that time3.

This is important because it adds to our understanding of the Northern Ireland labour market, a domain which has been an arena for sectarian dispute, but also conflict reduction and management2, and for which academic literature has been dominated by analysis and discussion of unemployment differentials3.

Similar analyses of linked census and ASHE data for other years – an EES 2021 is currently planned and could be extended into subsequent years – can contribute to labour market monitoring and help inform policy on an ongoing basis.

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