Barbados had an estimated population of 255,500 in 1987.
Population density was 593 persons per square kilometer; slightly
over one-third of the populace lived in urban areas. Annual
population growth remained relatively low in the 1980s, averaging
between 0.2 and 0.8 percent. In 1987 it was 0.6 percent. In spite
of this success, Barbados remained the most densely populated
country in the Eastern Caribbean. The primary reason for Barbados'
small population growth was the government's ability to implement
a nationwide family planning program that served to maintain a
crude birth rate of 17 per 1,000 inhabitants for the 1980-86
In the past, emigration played a large role in stabilizing
Barbados' population. From the end of World War II until the 1970s,
Barbados exported its unemployed, as did the Windward Islands.
Between 1946 and 1980, its rate of population growth was diminished
by one-third because of emigration to Britain. The United States
replaced Britain as the primary destination of emigrants in the
1960s because of Britain's restriction on West Indian immigration.
In spite of continued emigration, Barbados began to experience
a net inflow of workers in 1970, most coming from other Eastern
Caribbean islands. By 1980 demographic figures began to stabilize
because migration to Barbados had lessened, probably for economic
reasons, and a relatively small natural population growth rate had
been achieved. By the mid-1980s, expected real growth rates,
adjusted for migration, remained below 1 percent.
Ethnically, Barbados' population was dominated by descendants
of African slaves. At emancipation in the late 1830s, the size of
the slave population was approximately 83,000, three times that of
the entire slave population in the Windward Islands. By the 1980s,
distribution of ethnic groups was typical of the Eastern Caribbean;
90 percent of the population was black, 5 percent mulatto, and 5
Race largely defined social position in Barbados. The majority
of whites still held a disproportionate amount of economic wealth
in the 1980s and significantly influenced national politics through
their control of business enterprises. Blacks constituted both the
middle and the lower classes.
In the 1980s, there was still a displaced social subgroup of
extremely poor whites in Barbados who had not been fully
assimilated into society. Descendants of the white labor class that
had emigrated from Britain in the early colonial period, they had
quickly been replaced as an economic group by African slaves, who
had been brought to the New World as an inexpensive source of
labor. Known as "Red Legs," the subgroup lived off the sea and
subsistence agriculture and eventually became entrenched social
outcasts, who had little expectation of becoming members of modern
society (see The Sugar Revolutions and Slavery, ch. 1).
Barbados inherited from the British a stratified society with
a strong sense of class consciousness; Barbadian aspirations to
reach the next rung of the social and economic ladder partially
explain the industriousness of the population. Individual pride is
clearly associated with economic status and has been cited as a
reason for Barbados' early economic success, which surpassed that
of the Windward Islands.
Religion in Barbados was also influenced by the British. The
first colonizers established the Anglican Church in Barbados, where
it quickly assumed a position of dominance. Alternative religions
were subsequently provided by Moravian and Methodist groups.
Although Anglicans were still the dominant religious group in the
early 1980s, they constituted only 31 percent of the population.
The Church of God and the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches
each claimed to minister to between 3 and 4 percent of the
population. The remainder belonged to other religions or professed
no religious affiliation.
Data as of November 1987