The Missing Irish

By Irish America Staff
June / July 2002

In the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, the population of the U.S. grew from 248.7 million to 281.4 million according to the latest census report. From an Irish-American perspective, it is interesting to note that in the same period, the number of people claiming Irish ancestry decreased by 6 million. In 1990, nearly 44 million people (18%) described themselves as being of Irish ancestry, but now, only 38 million (14%) are doing so. These figures also reflect declines in other countries of ancestry such as Germany and England. In 1990, 58 million Americans (23%) claimed to have German ancestry while in 2000, only 46 million (17%) did so. In 1990, 33 million (13%) claimed to have English ancestry, contrasted with 28 million (10&) in the latest census.

An analyst with Census 2000 said the decline was part of a trend among all ethnic groups. “As the time goes on, people are looking back at their grandparents and if they were born in America, they are giving America as their ancestry” she said.

But even the numbers of those claiming Irish ancestry declined, the number of Irish-born residents has increased from 170,000 in 1990, to 202,000 in the latest figures. However, with the total foreign-born population standing at 28.4 million, Ireland barely registers in the figures, which is remarkable when you consider that Ireland was among the top 10 countries of birth among the foreign-born populations as recently as 1970. ♦

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