Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

In mid-1985 the population of Antigua and Barbuda was about 80,000, of which 78,500 lived on Antigua and 1,500 on Barbuda. The annual growth rate was 1.3 percent, based on a crude birth rate of 15 births per 1,000 inhabitants and a crude death rate of 5 deaths per 1,000. Infant mortality was twice that for the population as a whole, at 10 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 1981 about 34 percent of Antigua's population was classified as urban. This segment was almost completely concentrated in the capital, St. John's. Rural settlements tended to be compact villages of varying sizes, concentrated along major or secondary roadways. Nearly all of the population of Barbuda lived in the town of Codrington; the island of Redonda was uninhabited.

The people of Antigua and Barbuda were mostly black, descendants of African slaves. But the population also included some whites, descendants of British, Spanish, French, or Dutch colonists or of Portuguese, Lebanese, or Syrian immigrants. An exchange of residents had occurred between Antigua and Barbuda on the one hand and Europe and North America on the other hand as job seekers emigrated from, and retirees immigrated to, the Caribbean islands.

About 75 percent of the population belonged to the Anglican Church in the mid-1980s. The Anglican Church was acknowledged as the official church, but church and state were legally separated. The remaining 25 percent of the population included members of different Protestant denominations--Methodist, Presbyterian, and fundamentalist--as well as Roman Catholics and Rastafarians.

In the colonial era, Antiguan society was stratified on the basis of race. Europeans and those of European descent held the respected positions in society, They were the plantation owners and the political elites. On the other end of the spectrum were the black slaves or those of African ancestry, who lacked both political leverage and economic independence. The middle class was composed of mulattoes, who participated in commerce as merchants yet had little political clout. The abolition of slavery did little to change the class structure; nevertheless, the trade union movement and the associated transfer of political and economic power into workers' hands did much to weaken class barriers. In the late 1980s, society was divided along flexible class lines based on economic standing rather than the rigid racial criteria of the previous century.

The upper class in the late 1980s consisted mostly of foreigners but also included local investors or businessmen from the private sector. The higher positions in the party system, the civil service, the state-run enterprises, and the private sector professions were filled by the upper middle class, while the lower middle class consisted of other professionals, party functionaries, technicians, and skilled laborers. The lower class encompassed the rest of society.

For more recent population estimates, see Facts about Antigua and Barbuda.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress