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 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 (see Glossary) sect.
Data as of November 1987