Occupational structure in Ireland in the nineteenth century: data sources and avenues of exploration

Jason Begley, Frank Geary, Tom Stark

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    This paper considers structural change in post-Famine Ireland through an examination of changes in the allocation of the labour force across three broad production sectors: primary, secondary and tertiary. To do so, it makes extensive use of the Irish Census of Population from 1821 to 1911 as a source of occupational information. While there are a number of concerns with these returns, outlined and explored here, the Irish census remains the most complete source of information available on male and female labour force activity and occupations in Ireland during this period. The outcome of this exercise is a picture of Irish primary, secondary and tertiary sector employment during the latter half of the nineteenth century that is consistent with that of an economy undergoing a development transition: modernising albeit slowly. While Ireland was the poorest region of the UK economy, it was one of the richer European economies in terms of GDP per head and undergoing a development transition similar to a number of European economies during this period.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)207-228
    Number of pages22
    JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
    Issue number1
    Early online date23 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Cambridge Journal of Economics, following peer review. The version of record Begley, J, Geary, F & Stark, T 2020, 'Occupational structure in Ireland in the nineteenth century: data sources and avenues of exploration', Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 207-228 is available online at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cje/bez031

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    • Census of Population
    • Economic growth
    • Labour force
    • Occupations
    • Structural change

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics


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