An Italian American is someone who lives in the United States and has either partial or full Italian ancestry. According to the results of the 2000 Census, the last census when respondents were able to identify their European ancestry, there were approximately 16 million Italian Americans in the United States. This represented around 6% of the total American population, making Italian Americans the largest group of people with European migrant backgrounds.
One and a half decades later, in 2015, a nationwide survey found that the numbers of Italian Americans had increased to almost 18 million. Interestingly, this made the Italian American community the only group of European ancestry to show increases in their numbers since previous surveys had been conducted.
The reasons for the growth in the Italian American community in the US are partly due to the fact that even the younger generations tend to be very proud of their European heritage. Large, close-knit families are also a common feature of Italian American life and so it’s common for younger members to spend a lot of time within their own community.
Italian cuisine and cultural traditions also remain prevalent and play an important role in the life of Italian Americans. This means that the ancestral heritage of Italian Americans is passed down from one generation to another. Not only does this bind younger Italian Americans to their communities in the US but it also connects them to their homeland in a strong and lasting way.
Another factor that should be considered is that young Italian Americans are very loyal to their ancestry and often look for marriage partners within their own communities. Consequently, it’s not usual for Italian Americans to marry each and therefore maintain the growing number of Americans with Italian ancestry in the United States.
A Brief Overview Of Immigration From Italy To The United States.
Italians have had a long tradition of immigrating to the United States to seek a better life, improved job prospects and the opportunity to create a new life in the fabled land of freedom. Between 1870, when Italian immigration to the US began in earnest, and 2004, at least 5.5 million Italians immigrated to America.
One of the main reasons that caused Italians to leave their homeland was the dire poverty and hardships that plagued the rural Southern provinces of Italy. Regional violence and the exploitation of labor in Italy also drove the poor, peasant classes to leave for America in the late 19th Century. Not only was poverty and exploitation widespread, but malnutrition, disease and poor harvests all contributed to the successive waves of Italian immigration to the US.
Following the unification of Italy, in 1861, many Italians were encouraged to leave the country! Of course, many Italians wanted to leave the country due to ongoing violence and political problems that arose from supporting the losing parties in the conflicts that led to Italy’s unification. This also coincided with the end of the American Civil war, in 1865, after which the United States actively recruited labor from Italy and other European nations.
The main wave of Italian immigration to the United States began in the 1870s and lasted for about 50 years. Between 1870 and 1924, over 4 million Italians immigrated to America, representing one of the largest waves of immigration in Italy’s history. In the early days, many of the immigrants were fleeing violence in the Northern provinces of Italy but as time went on an increasing number were leaving poverty and a lack of opportunities in the South.
This period of immigration came to a sudden end with the outbreak of World War I, in 1914. Troops were needed in Europe and so Italians had to serve in the army after Italy joined the war in 1915. After the war came to an end, in 1918, the immigration levels of Italians to America never reached the levels of the late 19th Century.
In the 1920s, the US Congress passed laws to reduce the number of immigrants from Italy and other Southern and Eastern European countries, creating quotas for each country based on their total populations in the US. Over the following century, a fairly consistent trickle of Italians continued to immigrate to the United States but they never reached the initial levels in the late 19th Century.
Which Part Of Italy Did People Mainly Immigrate From?
Although many Northern Italians left for America after the unification of Italy in 1861, the vast majority of immigrants came from the Central and Southern provinces. During the major waves of immigration to the United States, between 1870 and 1914, most of the immigrants came from the Italian regions of Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, Apulia and Abruzzo.
These parts of Italy were largely rural and offered many of the poorest sections of society few opportunities in life. Poverty, disease and malnutrition were widespread and as stories of the possibilities in America circulated back to Italy many people decided to take a chance and cross the Atlantic to start a new life abroad.
Where Did Italian Americans Settle In The United States?
When immigrants from Italy first arrived in America they were drawn to the major cities where they were most likely to find employment. The large cities were also home to the newly settled communities of Italians which acted as a magnet to other Italians who wanted to live amongst people who shared their culture and language. Eventually, most of the early Italian immigrants settled in the Northeast and the Midwest regions of the United States.
I am a resident of Philadelphia. Philly as the locals call the city, has a very large Italian American population. Most of them live in the South Philadelphia neighborhood, which is close to where the Philadelphia International Airport and the Sport Stadiums (Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Phillies) are located. There is a very nice Italian market and many fantastic Italian restaurants and Deli’s and grocery stores in this area. I live in the Center City neighborhood of Philly. It is a twenty minute walk from my condo to the Italian market. One of my favorite things to do during summer is walk to the Italian market, buy a nice sandwich from Di Bruno Brothers and walk back. Healthy and happy!!
Two blocks from my condo, there is the Gran Caffe L’Aquila. L’Aquila is the capital of the Abruzzo region. Gran Caffe was a very popular cafe in L’Aquila and was located in Piazza Duomo. It was destroyed in the earth quake of 2009. Two high profile individuals, restauranter Riccardo Longo and gelato champion Stephano Biasini decided to design and build the entire caffe in Italy and then ship it to Philadelphia. It is on Chestnut Street and once you get in, you will be transported to Italy!
Which States Have The Most Italian Americans?
In recent decades Italian American communities have spread out across the whole of the US as they pursued job opportunities and education in other states.
According to the American Community Survey conducted in 2020, New York State has an Italian American community of more than 3 million people, the largest concentration of Italian Americans in the country.
Some of the other main concentrations of Italian Americans in the US are in California, Florida and Pennsylvania, all of which have more than 1 million Italian Americans in residence.
What Type Of Jobs Did Italian Americans Initially Do?
When Italian immigrants first arrived in America they generally took low-skilled, labor and working-class jobs. This was partly because of the language barrier but also because society had a much more rigid class system which was often quite nepotistic compared to the modern, meritocratic American society.
However, as the Italian immigrants settled into their new lives they soon established their own businesses and began to rise up through the economic structure of society. Of course, there were exceptions to this general rule, as evidenced by the first Italian American Congressman, Frank B Spinola, who was elected in New York in 1887!
Italian American Heritage Month.
Each year in October millions of Italian Americans in the United States celebrate their culture, heritage and history during Italian American Heritage Month. First established in 1989, Italian American Heritage Month coincides with Columbus Day, a celebration of the discovery of the North American continent by the famous Genoese explorer who sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
The month is a celebration of the culture, heritage, traditions and achievements of the Italian American community in the United States. The month-long celebration was first established in 1989 by President George H W Bush and plays an important role in commemorating the contributions of the Italian American community to American society.
Columbus Day, takes place each year on the 12th of October. Columbus Day commemorates the discovery of America in 1492 by one of the most famous Italians of all time, Christopher Columbus. NOTE: It is a fact that Columbus was not the first European to discover America. The Vikings have established settlements in America hundreds of years prior to Columbus discovering America.
Italian Americans Are Central To The History Of The United States.
In contemporary America, the descendants of Italians work in all sectors of society and have firmly established themselves as valued members of the community. Starting out as working-class underdogs, the Italian immigrants of the late 19th Century soon carved out a permanent place in the heart of America’s culture, society and daily life.