Belfast is the administrative capital of Northern Island and the largest city. The majority of Belfast is located in County Antrim, but some of South and East Belfast are located on County Down. Belfast is the 15th largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland with an estimated 2014 population of 295,000.
While the population of the city proper is 295,000, the Belfast Metropolitan Area is home to 585,000 people. This makes it the 15th largest city in the U.K. and the 11th largest conurbation. Belfast is much more densely populated than Northern Ireland as a whole with a population density nearing 6,500 people per square mile (2,500 per square kilometer). The area that Belfast covers is approximately 115 square kilometers.
There have been many minority communities in Belfast for about 80 years. The largest ethnic minority groups in Belfast are Chinese and Irish Travellers. There have been many Eastern European immigrants moving to the city in recent years with the expansion of the European Union, however. More than 2% of the population belongs to an ethnic minority, with more than 50% living in south Belfast.
In April 2014, it was reported that Catholics now outnumber Protestants in Belfast. The Catholic population tends to be younger and has grown to 49% of the population while the Protestant population tends to be older, dropping to 42% this year.
The inner city population is a mix of single young people, students, and elderly citizens, with most families living in the suburbs. While there has been peace for some time, most of Belfast still shows signs of the division in Northern Ireland, with many areas very segregated by religion, politics, and ethnicity. Areas are often divided as Catholic or Republic, or Protestant or Loyalist.
Belfast Population Growth
Belfast experienced significant growth in the late 1880s through the beginning of the 20th century, doubling between 1831 and 1851. Most of this early growth was due to migration as more people were attracted by industrialization and jobs in mills, shipyards, and engineering.
Belfast has grown steadily in recent years, rising from 276,000 people in 2001 to 295,000 in 2014. The city grew fastest during the first half of the 20th century, peaking in 1971 at almost 600,000 people in the urban area. Over the past 40 years, the inner city numbers have dropped as more people move to the Greater Belfast suburbs. In 1926, 90% of Belfast residents lived in the Core City, a share that was cut in half by 1991.
In 2012, Northern Ireland reached a population of almost 1.83 million. It has been said that Belfast must double its population at least to be able to take advantage of opportunities for growth in tourism, technology, and energy, as it is one of the few cities on the island of Ireland that has a lower population today than it did 170 years ago.