A historic jump in Ireland's birth rate has uncovered a Celtic Tiger baby boom that will shape the country's future.
Latest official figures show 73,996 babies were born in 2008 -- the largest number since 1980.
The last time Ireland experienced so many newborns before that was in 1892, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The surge confirms a baby boom on the back of the economic good times but academics believe it is too early to compare it to the post-World War Two spike in births.
Dr Jane Gray, a sociology expert at NUI Maynooth, said the figures suggested women were putting off having children until they were older because of the career breaks during the past decade.
"It could be that the Celtic Tiger coincided with a pattern of people postponing having first babies," she said. "It could also have been to do with more career opportunities for women. They may have decided to wait longer for that first birth."
The CSO report shows the most popular age for women giving birth during 2008 was between 30 and 34. There was a shift in the 1990s from women having children during their late 20s to their early 30s.
A third of all births in Ireland were to unmarried parents.
Dr Gray said evidence proved most of these were to co-habiting adult women who planned to marry their partner at some stage rather than unplanned teenage pregnancies.