Ethnic America, mapped: Your county’s biggest ancestral populations

April 18, 2014

The history of European colonization of the Americas is still evident today in most of the United States. This very cool map shows which ancestries make up the largest population in each of the country’s 3,144 counties:


Some highlights to note: The Irish really do run Boston. People of Irish ancestry make up the largest contingent of counties in Massachusetts, and in parts of Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire and eastern New York. The only counties outside the Northeast where the Irish make up the biggest share of the population are in southern Oregon.

The legacy of slavery still shows up in many rural Southern counties, where African Americans make up dominant slices of the population. Mexican Americans are dominant in border states, and in rural areas where agriculture is a big slice of the economy in places like eastern Washington and southern Idaho.

And note those of non-Mexican Hispanic/Spanish origin in northern New Mexico. Those are the families who were in the United States before there was a United States. Or a Mexico, for that matter.

People of Finnish ancestry control parts of North Dakota — that is, before the oil boom in the west where the population is booming. The only places where those of French extraction make up big portions of the population are in southern Louisiana and along our northern border with Quebec.

Then there are the “other” categories — ancestries that make up a majority of just one county. The entire state of Hawaii falls into that category: Kauai and Maui are plurality Filipino. Kalawao County, the north coast of Molokai, is majority native Hawaiian. Honolulu has more residents of Japanese ancestry.

The plurality in San Francisco is of Chinese ancestry. Cubans make up the largest part of the population in Miami-Dade County. Manhattan, New York County, has more people of Dominican descent than any other background. And Luzerne County, Pa., anchored in Wilkes-Barre, has more people with Polish heritage than any other group.

Ancestry has a lot to do with the modern political makeup of what journalist and demographer Colin Woodard calls the 11 American nations. Here’s his map, which we first posted back in November:

upinarms-map

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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