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St. Patrick’s Day in 2017 to Set Record for Economic Impact

It is St. Patrick's Day in 2017. While many of us will be out celebrating at some point on Friday, St. Patrick's Day actually makes for a significant economic contribution. And in 2017, the holiday came on Friday for extra revelry fun that might carry over for some places through the entire weekend. Some cities already had their St. Patrick's Day parades the prior weekend, but 2017 is set to be a record breaking year for St. Patty's spending.

24/7 Wall St. has decided to look at the economic impact that will be felt from St. Patrick's Day this year. Several sources have been used for the data, and each has been named if applicable. It turns out that the influx of beer buying, binge drinking, designated drives via cabs (plus Uber, Lyft and limos) and the spending on green comes with a rather large economic footprint. We have taken a view of the demographic and economic contributions of the Irish in America, what amount will be spent on beer and other items, how the Irish investment funds have done, what people are spending money on, and even which parades will be the largest.

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First and foremost, it's important to understand that St. Patrick's Day is bigger in America than it is in Ireland or anywhere else in the world. After all, the Irish-American population is exponentially larger than the population of Ireland. The Census stats show that the world’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually in New York City, back in 1762. The parade became an annual event back in 1948. There are 32.7 million people in America who claim Irish ancestry. That's about 10.2% of the population, and seven times the size of the Ireland.

Census data also shows that Irish-Americans are more educated than the average person in America. There are 36.2% of those claiming Irish ancestry aged 25 or older with a bachelor's degree and 94.1% have at least a high school diploma, versus 30.6% and 87.1% on average, respectively.

And to prove income rises with education: the Census shows that the median income for households headed by an Irish-American is $64,322 versus the nation's median household income of $55,775 (2015 data). Also, only 6.5% of family households headed by a householder of Irish ancestry were in poverty versus an average rate of 10.6% for all Americans.

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The Irish-American ancestry seems to breed home ownership too. There were 68.4% of householders of Irish ancestry who owned their home versus an average rate of 63.0% for all of America, according to the Census.

According to Wallethub, there will be $5.3 billion spent on St. Patrick's Day in 2017. Their take is that 56.1% of Americans will celebrate St. Patrick's Day and that the average St. Patty's partier will drop about $38, as this is the fourth largest drinking day in America.

The National Retail Federation shows that the $5.3 billion expected to be spent on St. Patrick's Day in America will be the largest ever spent. Thanks, Friday! Their view of the average spend will be $37.92, versus $35.37 in 2016 and the prior record of $36.52 in 2015. Here is more detail from the National Retail Federation's St. Patrick's Day survey:

  • 83% of celebrants will wear green to show their Irish pride.

  • 31% plan to make a special dinner.

  • 27% will head to a party at a bar or restaurant.

  • 23% will decorate their homes or offices in an Irish theme.

  • 15% will attend a private party.

  • 15% plan to attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade (21% in the Northeast).

  • 52% of celebrants will purchase food.

  • 41% will purchase beverages.

  • 28% will purchase apparel or accessories.

  • 22% will purchase decorations.

  • And 14% will purchase candy.

Investing in Ireland has been rewarding in 2017 as well. The Dow was up 5.8% so far in 2017 coming into St. Patrick's Day, and here is how the data looks for the Irish ETF and closed-end fund:

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  • The New Ireland Fund Inc. (IRL) was at $12.88 coming into St. Patrick's Day in 2017, up some 7.66% from the $11.97 close at the end of 2016. It has $75.7 million in assets.

  • The iShares MSCI Ireland Capped ETF (EIRL) was at $40.44 coming into St. Patrick's Day. That's a gain of 7.8% from the closing price of $37.53 at the end of 2016. This fund counts $64.6 million in assets.

For 2017, the Boston parade suffered due to residual ice and snow from the week's snowstorm. The Boston Parade Committee and the City of Boston decided to shorten the parade route this year for public safety reasons. Fodor's lists the largest St. Patrick's Day parades, with selective data below:

  • New York City is the country’s largest and the world's largest St. Patrick’s Day parade — more than 2 million people.

  • Dublin, Ireland's festival runs from March 16 to March 19, and that parade attracts about 500,000.

  • Chicago's parade gets some 400,000 who gather along the river to see the Chicago River turn green (from just 45 pounds of dye).

  • Savannah, Georgia, draws more than 300,000 people each year for its parade.

As we have pondered before, it would be interesting to know if St. Patrick himself might approve or disapprove of the modern St. Patrick's Day. The day honors Bishop Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century and used the shamrock to illustrate divinity.

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Enjoy the holiday and, as always, be responsible.

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