Lecture on Irish Immigrants to the US Marks 10 Years of TILDA

Posted on: 23 May 2016

Hollywood movies often portrayed the Irish as a poor and uneducated race of people. Yet like so many other Hollywood storylines, this image is just a myth.

In fact Irish migrants to the US during the first half of the 20th century were on average as well educated as other European immigrants to the US, according to Professor James Smith, who delivered the lecture ‘Irish Immigrants and their Progeny around the World’ in Trinity College Dublin to mark the 10th anniversary of TILDA (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing).

In addition to comparing whether Irish migrants to the US were more or less educated than the Irish who stayed at home, Professor Smith, the son of an Irish mother who emigrated to the US, examined how the children and grandchildren of Irish migrants to the US did in terms of their education. Did they receive more education in the US than they would have received if the original migrants had stayed at home in Ireland? The answer is no.

Professor Smith, Distinguished Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic Studies at US-based policy-research institute RAND, was in Trinity to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). He has served from the start of TILDA as chair of the International Scientific Advisory Board and has played a pivotal role in helping TILDA be a success.

Professor Paul Browne, Head of School of Medicine, welcoming Professor James Smith said: “We are grateful to Professor Smith for being incredibly generous with his time and expertise, and in particular for his mentorship of younger researchers at TILDA and being an inspiration.”  


Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, Irish Life and the Department of Health, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a large-scale, nationally representative, longitudinal study on ageing in Ireland. TILDA collects information on all aspects of health, economic and social circumstances from people aged 50 and over in a series of data collection waves once every two years. TILDA is unique amongst longitudinal studies in the breadth of physical, mental health and cognitive measures collected. This data, together with the extensive social and economic data, make TILDA one of the most comprehensive research studies of its kind both in Europe and Internationally. Highlights of development over the ten years include:

  • Established 2006; Phase I 2006-2016 with 4 waves of data collection.
  • Cohort: 8,500 of 50+ is a representative sample of  Irish population.
  • Evidence base for 48 policy documents in Ireland.
  • Harmonised to 13 international longitudinal studies on ageing. 
  • 45+ national research collaborations. 25+ international research collaborations. TILDA biobank of 10,000 blood samples. 3,500 hair samples.
  • 108 peer-reviewed publications from the TILDA team; 23 reports, topic reports, research briefs.
  • Additional grant funding awarded for research projects: €4.6 million. 39% grant success rate.
  • Cited by 160 institutes in 48 countries.

For more information please visit www.tilda.tcd.ie 

Media Contact:

Helen Hanley, Former | publicaffairs@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4168