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Recent U.S. Census data show that the number of Estonians in the U.S. has hovered around 29,000. The greatest single concentration is in the New York metro area, and the megaregion stretching from Washington to Boston includes a quarter of all the Estonians in the nation. California and Florida also have large numbers of Estonians. These are the major conclusions in this report that focuses on (1) Estonians by metropolitan area and (2) a grouping of metropolitan areas into regions. The data are from the American Community Survey (ACS).

Every month the US Census’ ACS sends out 300,000 surveys to households across the nation. It asks many sociodemographic questions including ancestry.  Specifically, it asks for the ancestry or ethnic origin for every individual in the household. Two responses are recorded per person for those that identify multiple ancestry. Annually, more than three million surveys are returned, recorded and tabulated by states, counties, large cities and metropolitan areas.

The ACS provides one-year, three-year and five-year compilations. I have chosen the most recent five-year data (2010-2014) because it provides a particularly large sample (about 15 million) that reduces the margin of error in the reported statistics. Even with this large sample, the margin of error for many of the metro areas discussed here is in the 200 to 300 range. The data are not precise, but provide the best available estimates regarding ethnic ancestry by metropolitan area. I will use the data as reported but remember that the numbers are estimates.  

Further, it is important to remember that these data are self-reported and it is not possible to ascertain how Estonian these individuals “feel.” Also, throughout this article I will refer to these people as Estonians but many may have a primary ethnic identity that is stronger than their Estonian ancestry. Certainly many do not speak Estonian. 

Nationally, of the approximately 28,200 that have responded 'Estonian' as either a first ancestry (47.4%) or second ancestry (52.6%), the largest number live in the New York metropolitan area (the data in the table only use the largest city name such as San Francisco rather than San Francisco-Oakland or New York-Newark). With approximately 3.5 thousand Estonians, the New York area accounts for approximately one in eight Estonians in the U.S. or about 12.6% of the national total. This is similar to the concentration of Latvians in New York, 11.3% or the 13.0% of the Lithuanians that live in the Chicago area, their largest ethnic center (8.5% of the Lithuanians live in the New York area).

In the New York region, the ACS reports 288 in Hartford, 264 in Norwich, 222 in Bridgeport plus other metro areas. It is difficult to define a NY region but it approaches 5000 Estonians. Not far away is Philadelphia with another 686. Indeed the Washington-Boston megaregion, which also includes Baltimore, accounts for a particularly large proportion of the Estonians in the U.S. The twelve metropolitan areas in this corridor collectively account for 7282 Estonians, or 25.8% of the national total. This megaregion includes the third largest region of Estonians, Baltimore – Washington, with a total of 1351.

Southern California, a much large territory, has roughly the same number of Estonians as Baltimore-Washington. Los Angeles plus Riverside/San Bernardino account for 1265 Estonians. When San Diego (389) and Bakersfield are added then the total is 1654. This encompasses a larger territory than the Baltimore-Washington area but the automobile culture in southern California may mitigate that point.

Three other regions also record more than 1000 Estonians. Not in any particular order, (1) the Chicago-Racine-Milwaukee corridor has a total of 1084 or 885, 114 and 85 respectively. The location of the Chicago Estonian House in north suburban Chicago serves the Racine and Milwaukee communities quite well. (2) The San Francisco plus San Jose (Silicon Valley) region logs 1082 Estonians (802+280). If we add the 264 Estonians in Stockton, with commuter rail service to Silicon Valley, then the total rises to 1346. (3) Perhaps the Seattle-Portland corridor, separated by 175 miles, is a stretch as a region but they have 631+416 respectively or a total of 1047 people of Estonian ancestry. Vancouver Canada is actually closer to Seattle than Portland but the border crossing commonly results in a longer travel time.

While scattered over a rather large area, eight metro areas in Florida account for 2023 Estonians. By far the largest concentration is in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metro area (837) followed by Tampa and Orlando.  Jacksonville ranks fourth with 193 Estonians. Because of the great distances between these metro areas I do not consider Florida as one ‘region.’  


Rank  Estonians    Metro areas


1    3549    New York
2    1087    Los Angeles
3    1058    Boston
4      885    Chicago
5      859    Washington
6      837    Miami
7      802    San Francisco

8      686    Philadelphia
9      631    Seattle
10    508    Minneapolis
11    492    Baltimore
12    440    Denver
13    416    Portland
14    389    San Diego
15    369    Cincinnati
16    347    Phoenix
17    332    Orlando
18    330    Worcester
19    307    Atlanta
20    303    Tampa
21    288    Hartford
22    280    San Jose
23    274    Buffalo
24    265    Detroit
25    264    Stockton
26    262    Kansas City
27    260    Norwich
28    239    Albany
29    223    Modesto
30    222    Bridgeport
31    213    Sacramento
32    201    Columbus

Other noteworthy metro areas are Minneapolis (508), Denver (440), Cincinnati (369), Phoenix (347) and Atlanta (307). As a mid-continental center, Chicago has a hinterland that encompasses two of these places: Minneapolis and Cincinnati but also serves Detroit (265), St.Louis and Indianapolis, and thus acts as a focal point for many Estonian activities.  

Lastly among the ten largest metropolitan areas, two do not have notable concentrations of Estonians. With over seven million people, the Dallas metro area is the fourth largest in the nation (178 Estonians) and Houston is the fifth largest metro area (112). Three other Texas metro areas, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio collectively account for 169 Estonians. It appears that Minneapolis may well have more Estonians than the combined total of these five large metropolitan areas in Texas. As a final note, Minneapolis has the largest Finnish ancestry at over 44,000 while metro Duluth has the second largest number of Finns at about 31,000. ACS reports 29 Estonians in Duluth.


Siim Sööt, Honorary Vice Consul, Republic of Estonia


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