Journal Article

Who is better off? Measuring cross-border differences in living standards, opportunities and quality of life on the island of Ireland

January 14, 2021

Irish Studies in International Affairs, 2021, Vol. 32, No. 2, Analysing and Researching Ireland, North and South (2021), pp. 143-160 

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There has been an increased focus on north-south issues on the island of Ireland in recent times owing to factors such as the outcome of the Brexit referendum, the establishment of the Shared Island Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach and the issue of possible constitutional change. This paper seeks to comprehensively explore differences in standards of living across a broad range of dimensions, including economic and social well-being and differences in income distribution. We exploit a range of datasets in order to compare all relevant indicators currently available for both NI and RoI.  We find that household disposable income, which we consider a reliable measure of comparative income, was $4,600 higher in RoI compared to NI in 2017, equating to a gap of approximately 12% after accounting for differences in prices across between both areas.  Significant differences are also apparent in access to and/or take-up of education across the life-cycle, in addition to much higher rates of educational disengagement in NI. Life expectancy in RoI overtook that in NI for both males and females in 2005 and by 2017 children born in RoI had a greater life expectancy of approximately 1.5 years.  More recently, life expectancy levels among those aged 65 in RoI begin to exceed those in NI.  Finally, we conclude that there is a need for greater coordination between the statistical authorities in both regions to produce comparable metrics, across a range of areas.