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Population Statistics[edit | edit source]
By the year 1000, not long after the island was settled, it is estimated that as many as 60,000-70,000 people already lived in Iceland. By 1311 the population had likely risen as high as 72,000. But disasters, famines, and disease continually beset the settlement. The first Black Plague epidemic in 1404-1406 is said to have killed two-thirds of the island’s inhabitants. The second wave of plague in the 1490s was only slightly less deadly. Smallpox also ravaged the country at frequent intervals before vaccination was imposed by law in 1821. The first official census in 1703 found only 53,358 souls. By 1769 the population had dropped to 46,201 and had risen only to 47,227 in 1801. The population grew slowly, with 56,000 in 1835, 59,000 in 1850, and 72,500 in 1880. Between 1870 and 1901 there was a large-scale emigration to North America because of unfavorable economic conditions in Iceland. For some areas of the north as much as 20% of the population left. This heavy emigration resulted in another population decrease, down to 71,900 in 1890. By 1901, there were 78,500 people. In 1910 the population was up to 85,000 plus there were some 15,000 Icelanders living in North America. A rapid growth in population paralleled accelerated economic growth in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1940 the country had 121,474 inhabitants; in 1970 the count was up to 204,930. The census of 1984 showed 240,443. During that year, the population of major cities was as follows: Reykjavík 88,745; Kópavogur 14,546; Akureyri 13,711; Hafnarfjördur 12,979; Keflavík 6,907. The 1990 population was estimated at 250,000. Presently, 96.9% of the country's population is Lutheran with 3.1% professing other religions.