America's Most Irish Towns

There are more than five times as many Americans with at least partial Irish ancestry as there are people who live in Ireland.
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On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish. But what about the rest of the year?

Twenty-two million Americans -- 7.2% of the population -- say their "primary ancestry" is Irish, according to the Census's American Community Survey. Another 13.5 million Americans claim at least some Irish ancestry, bringing the total to 35.5 million Americans -- 11.6% of the population -- with at least partial Irish ancestry. If that sounds low, remember that Ireland's population today is just 6.4 million -- 4.6 million in the Republic of Ireland and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland. So there are more than five times as many Americans with at least partial Irish ancestry as there are people who live in Ireland.

Irish-Americans are strongly concentrated in the Northeast. The percentage of people with primary Irish ancestry tops out at 20% in the Boston metro area, followed by Middlesex County, MA (west of Boston) and Peabody, MA (north of Boston). The top six metros are all in Massachusetts or upstate New York:

Irish-Americans are at least 5% of the population in most counties across the U.S., and 10% or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country. At the other extreme, Miami is just 1% Irish:

America's Top Irish Neighborhoods
Even though Irish-Americans make up just 5% of the New York metro population overall- less than the national average and only one-quarter the share in Boston - the neighborhood with the highest percentage of Irish-Americans is Breezy Point /Rockaway Point in Queens (ZIP code 11697). Most recently, this neighborhood is known for having had significant Hurricane Sandy damage:

These maps of greater Boston, New York, and Philadelphia show that the most Irish neighborhoods tend to be in the suburbs, while the central parts of these cities are much less Irish:Of these top 10 Irish neighborhoods in America, eight are suburban. The two within big-city limits are far from the city center: Breezy Point/Rockaway Point and Mount Greenwood are around 20 miles from Manhattan's Wall Street and Chicago's Loop, respectively. The most Irish neighborhoods have something else in common: five out of 10 are right on the water. Breezy Point/Rockaway Point and Point Lookout are both on the Atlantic Ocean, as are North Weymouth and Marshfield on Boston's South Shore. And Crum Lynne, west of Philadelphia, is right on the Delaware River.

Irish Today, Irish Tomorrow
The geography of Irish-Americans reflects the housing decisions of generations of Irish immigrants and their descendants. What about future Irish immigrants to America: Where might they go? For a hint, we looked at the metros and neighborhoods in America where the highest share of total foreign search traffic (excluding Canada) came from Ireland (in this case, the Republic of Ireland, not including Northern Ireland). Boston once again tops the list. In fact, eight of the top 10 metros where Ireland accounts for the highest share of foreign search traffic are also among the top 20 metros for the highest share of Irish ancestry (see chart above). In other words, people from Ireland tend to search more for homes in places where more Irish-Americans live.

Finally, where are people from Ireland looking for vacation homes in the U.S.? Trulia search traffic reveals that the traditional vacation or resort towns with the highest share of foreign searches coming from Ireland are on Cape Cod, MA, including the communities of Dennis Port, Cotuit, West Yarmouth, and North Falmouth, as well as Boothbay Harbor, ME. But there are some differences between where Irish-Americans live and where people from Ireland are looking at homes in America. Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI, which is north of Chicago, and Raleigh, NC, both rank near the middle of the 100 largest metros in Irish-American population but are on the top 10 list for share of search traffic coming from Ireland. In the other direction, Camden, NJ, and Wilmington, DE, both are among the top 10 metros for Irish-American population (see chart above), but rank much lower (48th and 71st, respectively) in share of search traffic coming from Ireland today.

Therefore, people from Ireland are searching more in places with large Irish-American populations. America's most Irish towns today are likely to remain strongly Irish for many St. Patrick Days to come.

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