Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

In 1985 the total population was estimated at 90,000, resulting in a population density of 300 people per square kilometer. Approximately 30 percent of the population lived in the capital city of St. George's; the balance was spread throughout the island in coastal towns and on inland farms. The population growth rate since 1970 has been near zero; some years have registered minor increases, whereas others have had offsetting decreases. In 1986 it was 0.3 percent. In spite of a relatively high crude birth rate, the population has remained relatively stable because of emigration.

Emigration was Grenada's most striking demographic feature in the late 1980s; the emigration pattern has been documented for nearly a hundred years. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, Grenada experienced a net migratory inflow to meet the shortage of labor. This trend was reversed, however, around 1890, when the labor market contracted. Shortly thereafter, Grenada experienced a net outflow of workers that eventually offset natural population growth. Grenada has long been considered overpopulated because of the economy's inability to absorb the growing labor force. This compelled many Grenadians to seek employment in foreign countries; most went to other islands in the Caribbean, Britain, the United States, and Canada.

In the late 1980s, the propensity for the work force to migrate was changing the structure of the population; emigration from Grenada not only neutralized the natural population growth rate but also skewed the age distribution. Because of the large numbers of working-age (fifteen to sixty-four) Grenadians continuing to leave the island, Grenada was slowly becoming a society with a disproportionate number of very young and very old inhabitants.

These demographic trends were well entrenched by 1987 and were expected to persist into the twenty-first century, having significant ramifications for the economy. A high crude birth rate was thought likely to continue to exacerbate the unemployment problem unless expanded economic performance created new jobs or unless an effective national birth control program was implemented. The failure of these to materialize would perpetuate the need for much of the work force to migrate for generations to come.

Grenada had essentially one ethnic group. Approximately 91 percent of the population was black, descended from the African slaves brought to Grenada by the French and British to work on colonial plantations. East Indians and whites constituted the remaining 9 percent of the population. Virtually all traces of the Carib and Arawak Indians, the original inhabitants, were gone. The island's ethnic homogeneity has often been cited as the reason for the general lack of racial discord in the society. Although factions developed for political and economic reasons, the absence of racial prejudice minimized the social upheaval evident in societies with more distinct ethnic barriers. Social, political, and economic stratification based on color and education had existed from colonial times through the twentieth century, however. White and light-colored inhabitants, composing an elite minority of no more than 5 percent of the population, had long controlled the political and economic resources of the country. Nevertheless, diversification of the economy and political transformations since the rise and fall of the PRG had softened these distinctions (see Government and Politics, this section).

Religious affiliation was the product of Grenada's colonial heritage. Approximately 65 percent of the population was Roman Catholic, a lingering effect of periodic French domination. The remaining 35 percent primarily belonged to three Protestant denominations: Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian. There was also a small Rastafarian sect.

For more recent population estimates, see Facts about Grenada.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress