13 Mar

Map of the Week: Irish Diaspora of the United States


By Thomas Jang and Phoebe Hill

The Irish diaspora in the United States makes up one-tenth of the country’s population, or approximately 32,687,000 people. Illustrated by data from the Migration Policy Institute, the Irish diaspora is the country’s fourth-largest, following that of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Scotland), Mexico, and Germany. Of all people who claimed Irish descent in the United States, only 123,000 were born in Ireland. The Irish-American population is seven times that of Ireland, where 4.8 million people currently live. 

The large Irish diaspora in the US is largely the result of significant 19th century migration. Irish migration to the US peaked as the result of the Great Famine (1845-1852) in which the failure of the potato crop and insufficient provision of alternative foods led to death and destruction at a cataclysmic scale. In the period between 1851 and 1860, more than 80% of those who migrated to the US were Irish. 

Many in the Irish diaspora settled in the Northeast, with 31.4% in Plymouth, Massachusetts, accompanied by 29% in Cape May, New Jersey; 28.3% in Norfolk, Massachusetts; 27% in Gloucester, New Jersey; 26.2% in Barnstable, Massachusetts; 25.8% in Rensselaer, New York; and 25.7% in Delaware, Pennsylvania. The greater Irish populations outside of the Northeast are concentrated in Silver Bow, Montana; Real, Texas; and Greeley, Nebraska. 

Data provided by the US Census Bureau showcases significant economic success amongst Irish Americans. Irish Americans receive better education and are more likely to both have a white-collar job and own a home than the average American. This housing pattern correlates with economic geographies of the US as most Irish American populations are concentrated in the suburbs of large Northeastern cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.