865,000 North Carolinians—nearly 9% of the total population—identified themselves as “Irish” on ancestry questions in the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS). (An additional quarter million identified themselves as Scotch-Irish, but this ethnic origin is considered distinct from Irish.)
Among individuals specifying an ancestry or ethnic origin, Irish is the 5th most common in North Carolina after African-American, American, German, and English.
The map below shows concentrations of individuals of Irish ancestry across the state by county in the 2008-2012 5-year ACS data. Bertie County (2.4%), Vance County (2.5%), and Robeson County (2.9%) have the lowest proportion of individuals of Irish ancestry in the state. In contrast, Dare (16.3%) and Onslow (16.1%) counties have the highest proportion of individuals of Irish ancestry. The high proportions of individuals of Irish ancestry in the coastal counties and in the western mountains may represent the influence of retirees from New England and other Mid-Atlantic states on the population of these areas.
Most Irish North Carolinians were born in the United States (98%), and nearly half were born in North Carolina. Of the 13,500 Irish North Carolinians born in a foreign country, fewer than 2,000 were born in Ireland.
Among those who identify as Irish, one-third claim only Irish as an ancestry while the remaining two-thirds are Irish in combination with another ethnic origin. The most common ancestries listed in combination with Irish are:
Compared to individuals who report only Irish ancestry, individuals who report Irish ancestry in combination with another ancestry or ethnic origin are much younger (average age of 35.3 versus 43) and are much more likely to be multiracial (3.5% versus 0.2%).
Of course, this age difference means that many more individuals who are “Irish only” are legally old enough to drink a green beer to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day (83% are 21 or older versus 68% of individuals who are Irish in combination with another ancestry).