A quarter of children in Ireland are born to non-Irish mothers

NO FEE Trocaire Lent Appeal 4

A new study has shown that one in four children born in Ireland is to a non-Irish mother, and more than half of these mothers are from EU Accession states.

Trinity College Dublin’s sociology department conducted ‘New Irish Families: A profile of Second Generation Children and their Families’ based on births in Ireland during 2012.

Dr Antje Röder’s study also found that it was more common for children to have a mixed native/migrant heritage than to be born to two migrant parents, but classifies UK-born mothers, who may or may not have Irish citizenship, in the migrant category.

“There is now much greater diversity amongst young families in Ireland. This brings with it great opportunities, but also challenges that need to be addressed to ensure all children born in Ireland have opportunities to grow up to fulfil their potential,” said Dr Röder.

“From our study so far it is clear that some three groups of migrant parents experience socio-economic disadvantages that are likely to impact their children as they grow older. Another core issue is childcare: immigrant parents have less access to relative care, and many cannot afford other forms of childcare, leading to lower rates of return to work amongst migrant mothers.

“We cannot say yet to what extent this reflects different cultural preferences for the appropriate care of young children, but will continue to investigate this further as the study progresses.”

The study also found that these ‘mixed’ couples were much more likely to come from an Irish native having a child with either a UK born partner or one from older EU member states.

Relationships between an Irish parent and a partner from Africa, Asia or an EU accession state were found to be far less common.


Roman Catholicism was the most common religion among migrant mothers and their children. However, a substantial proportion of migrant families belong to another religion such as ‘other Christian’ denominations (14 per cent), Muslim (6 per cent) and Protestant (4 per cent). Another 13 per cent of migrant mothers do not belong to any religion.


The report also studies socio-economic links between children born to migrant or native parents. Those born into families with second generation children were more likely to live in rented accommodation and apartments rather than houses.

Mothers from Asia were the most likely to return to work after pregnancy, with two thirds of them doing so. Irish mothers were found to be the next likely to return to work by the time the child is nine months than most immigrant mothers.

The group least likely to return to work after a birth were mothers from EU accession states; only less than one in four of those who had previously been in work returned to full time employment.


The percentage of mothers born outside of Ireland who had Irish citizenship varied greatly. While 72 per cent of mothers from the United Kingdom had Irish citizenship, only 5 per cent of mothers from EU Accession states did. The comparable figure for African mothers was 17 per cent.

Although Irish citizenship is no longer automatically conferred on children born here, 97 per cent of the children in the cohort were Irish citizens. However, only two-thirds of children born in Ireland to a parent from an EU Accession state had Irish citizenship.


Mothers born outside of Ireland were on average more highly educated than the native population. Among mothers from the EU 15 countries (excluding Ireland and the U.K.), 60 per cent were educated to degree level or higher with 46 per cent of Asian mothers also having at least a third level degree. The comparable figure among Irish mothers was 28 per cent.


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