The original population of the island was of Gaelic and Nordic origin based on genetic analysis and literary evidence from the island's settlement. One genetic study of Icelanders found most men were of Nordic origin while most women were of Gaelic origin.
In the island's early history, the harsh winters, volcanic eruptions, and outbreaks of plague affected its growth many times, with 37 famines recorded between 1500 and 1804. The first census of Iceland found a population of more than 50,000 in 1703, which declined to 40,000 after massive eruptions of the Laki volcano between 1783 and 1784. As living conditions improved, the population began to grow, eventually hitting 60,000 in 1850 then 320,000 by 2008.
Iceland's population is fairly young for such a developed country. The median age in Iceland is 36.5 years of age, with a total life expectancy of 83.1 years of age. Iceland is also rare in that it is one of the few European nations with a fertility rate well above the replacement rate at 2.1 children born per woman.
The ethnic composition of Iceland today is 93% Icelandic. The largest ethnic minority is Polish at 3% of the population. There are about 8,000 Poles on the island, accounting for 75% of the workforce in Fjarðabyggð. More than 13% of the population was born abroad while 6% hold foreign citizenship. There is also significant Icelandic diaspora with 88,000 people of Icelandic descent in Canada and more than 40,000 in the United States.
Quality of Life in Iceland
Iceland ranks at number 4 in the World Happiness Report in 2018, with a rating of 7.495. This rating is discerned from the examination of GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceived corruption. Additionally, 100% of the population has improved access to clean drinking water and only 1.2% of the population struggles with access to improved sanitation facilities. School life expectancy is at a total of 20 years, with females tending to spend 21 years in education over males who are only expected to stay in for 18 years.