Sectarianism: myth or social reality? Inter-sectarian partnerships in Scotland, evidence from the Scottish Longitudinal Study

Gillian Raab, Christopher Holligan

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8 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the contested issue of whether sectarianism divides Catholics and Protestants in Scotland. The conclusions are based on an analysis of 111,627 couples from the 2001 Census. The proportions with no religious upbringing and currently belonging to no religion decrease steeply with year of birth for the members of couples. This is largely due to a decline in the Protestant group, while the proportion of Catholics remains fairly stable with year of birth. For the oldest cohort those with a Catholic upbringing are disadvantaged compared to Protestants, in terms of educational qualifications and membership of the professional classes, but this difference has eroded so that there are few differences at the youngest ages. Those with no religious upbringing are disadvantaged on these measures at all ages. Catholics are more likely than Protestants to form couples outside their religious group, and this is not simply a consequence of their minority status, which would restrict the number of available partners. The trend towards secularism could be influenced by inter-sectarian coupling because those in mixed relationships are less likely to practise their religion of upbringing. The high proportion of inter-sectarian marriages may give rise to many Protestants in Scotland having practising Catholics among their extended families, and this should contribute to undermining sectarian divisions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1934-1954
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Religion
  • sectarianism
  • Scotland
  • couples
  • Census
  • Northern Ireland

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