Everyone acts as if they have the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but according to Census data those with that ancestral luck are in the minority. According to 2019 ancestral data, Livingston County had the highest percentage of residents with Irish ancestry at 14 percent, followed by St. Clair County with 13 percent of the population claiming Irish ancestry. Wayne County had the lowest percentage at 7 percent. A closer look at the region through Census Tract data shows that an area in Grosse Pointe had the highest percentage of those with Irish ancestry at 30 percent; other pockets with some of the highest percentages were near Ann Arbor, Port Huron, White Lake and Farmington Hills. Statewide, 11 percent of Michiganders reported Irish ancestry.
Understanding our ancestry is important, and the Census data not only shows breakdowns of origins from specific countries and regions, but also the percentages of those with single or multiple ancestral roots. Ancestry refers to one’s ethnic origin or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. Throughout Southeastern Michigan each county had more than a third of its population report single ancestry data. Oakland County had the highest percentage of residents with a single ancestry at 53 percent, followed by Macomb County where 52 percent of the population reported a single ancestry of origin. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of residents with a single ancestry origin at 40 percent, conversely it had the highest percentage of multiple ancestry residents at 42 percent. Note that the percentages reported for multiple and single ancestry in the maps below do not add up to 100 percent, that is because the Census also accounts for those who do not report ancestry.
While the Irish are at the top of everyone’s minds this week, much of Michigan’s ancestry is comprised of those with German decent at 19 percent. Additionally, in Southeastern Michigan we have an enclave of those of Arab descent. While those with Arab roots make up 2 percent of Michigan’s population, in Wayne County they make up 6 percent of the population and in Macomb and Oakland counties they make up 3 percent of the populations. When examining the data at the Census Tract level we see that the Dearborn-Dearborn Heights area has between 14-80 percent of the population (depending on the tract) with Arab roots. Other areas with high Arab ancestral roots are Hamtramck (up to 39 percent) and West Bloomfield (up to 25 percent), Bloomfield (up to 13 percent) and Sterling Heights (up to 15 percent).
Understanding a region’s ancestry helps bring historical knowledge on who helped grow the region, a community and even a neighborhood and its culture. As we continue to evolve as a society many of us still try to cling to our ancestral roots, showcasing positive traditions of the past. With migration amongst cities, states and countries being fluid we must also make way for new traditions and take time to understand the cultures of all those around us.