The Work and Luck of the Irish

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Ever wonder why Irish Americans get their own holiday when the ethnic origins of so many others seem to go unobserved?

This year, as you're planning which green outfit you're going to wear to work on St. Patrick's Day, and deciding which eateries you're going to visit (or avoid) because they're serving green beer, it might help you to know a little bit more about the Irish Americans in our midst, and how they stack up against the population in general.

First of all, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are an awful lot of Irish Americans in the United States. In 2009, 36.9 million residents claimed Irish ancestry, more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.5 million). Irish was the nation's second most frequently reported ancestry, trailing only German.

You may or may not to be surprised to learn that additional Census Bureau numbers show that Irish Americans are more successful than the rest of the U.S. population as a whole:

  • The 122,000 Irish-born U.S. residents have a higher median household income ($56,158) than the median for U.S. residents as a whole ($50,221).
  • 32 percent of people of Irish ancestry, 25 or older, have a bachelor's degree or higher and 92 percent of Irish-Americans in this age group have at least a high school diploma. For the nation as a whole, the corresponding rates were 28 percent and 85 percent respectively.
  • The median income for households headed by an Irish American is $56,383, higher than the $50,221 for all households.
  • 10 percent of people of Irish ancestry were in poverty, lower than the rate of 14 percent for all Americans.
  • 70 percent of householders of Irish ancestry own the home in which they live, with the remainder renting. For the nation as a whole, the home-ownership rate is 66 percent.
  • 40 percent of employed civilian Irish Americans 16 or older work in management, professional and related occupations. 27 percent worked in sales and office occupations; 16 percent in service occupations; 9 percent in production, transportation and material moving occupations; and 8 percent in construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations.

No wonder almost everyone claims to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. It's up to you to figure out if they're full of Blarney.

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