8 Interesting Facts and Figures About the Irish American Population

Test your knowledge of Irish American history with this quiz

Irish Flag

How many facts and figures do you know about the Irish American population? Did you know, for example, that March is Irish-American Heritage Month? If so, you belong to a small group of Americans.

Too few people know that there is such a month at all, let alone which month it falls in, according to the American Foundation for Irish Heritage. While a number of events internationally take place in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating the Irish throughout the month of March has yet to become a routine practice.

The American Foundation for Irish Heritage aims to make the cultural heritage month, first celebrated in 1995, as popular as Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month. The group even offers tips on how to get the public to take more of an interest in celebrating the month-long observance, such as contacting public radio and television stations, Irish-American organizations and state governors.

But the foundation already has one agency in its corner—the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the bureau acknowledges Irish-American Heritage Month by releasing facts and figures about the Irish population. 

Put your knowledge about the Irish-American population to the test.

Irish Ancestry in the U.S. Population

True or false: Americans claim Irish ancestry more than any other.

Answer: False. Although Oktoberfest is nowhere near as popular as St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S., more Americans claim to be of German ancestry than any other. Irish is the second most popular ethnicity Americans claim. Nearly 35 million Americans report having Irish heritage, according to the census. That’s seven times the population of Ireland, which is an estimated 4.58 million.

Where Irish Americans Live

Which state is home to the largest percentage of Irish Americans—New York, Massachusetts or Illinois?

Answer: New York. The state boasts an Irish-American population of 13 percent. Nationwide, the Irish-American population averages 11.2 percent. New York City also has the distinction of being host to the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It took place on March 17, 1762, and featured Irish soldiers in the English military. In the 5th century, St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, but the day in his honor has now come to be associated with anything Irish-related.

Irish Immigrants to America

How many Irish immigrants became naturalized U.S. residents in 2010—50,000, 150,000 or 250,000?

Answer: Precisely 144,588, or roughly 150,000.

Wealth Among Irish Americans

Is the median household income for Irish-Americans the same, lower or higher than it is for Americans overall?

Answer: Households headed by Irish Americans actually have higher median incomes—$56,363 yearly—than the $50,046 for U.S. households generally. Not surprisingly, Irish Americans also have lower poverty rates than Americans as a whole. Just 6.9 percent of households headed by Irish Americans had incomes at the poverty level, while 11.3 percent of American households generally did.

Higher Education

True or false: Irish Americans are more likely than the U.S. population as a whole to be college graduates.

Answer: True. While 33 percent of Irish Americans 25 or older have at least earned a bachelor’s degree and 92.5 have at least a high school diploma, for Americans generally, the corresponding numbers are only 28.2 percent and 85.6 percent, respectively.

The Workforce

Which field are Irish Americans more likely to work in—transportation, sales or management?

Answer: The majority, 41 percent, of Irish Americans work in management, professional and related occupations, the census reports. Next in line are sales and office occupations. Just above 26 percent of Irish Americans work in that field, followed by 15.7 percent in service occupations, 9.2 percent in production, transportation and material moving occupations, and 7.8 percent in construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations.

Median Age

True or false: Irish Americans are older than the general U.S. population.

Answer: True. According to the 2010 census, the average American is 37.2 years old. The average Irish American is 39.2 years old.

The Most Irish President

Which U.S. president has the most Irish heritage—Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy or Andrew Jackson?

Answer: John F. Kennedy broke the glass ceiling in 1961 by becoming the first Irish-American Catholic president. But he wasn’t the president with the most direct ties to Ireland. According to the "Christian Science Monitor," Andrew Jackson holds this distinction. Both of his parents were born in Country Antrim, Ireland. They relocated to the United States in 1765, two years before his birth.