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Italian Immigration

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Between 1880 and 1920, four million Italian immigrants traversed the Atlantic to the United States. More Italian?s have migrated to the US then any other Europeans. These Italians came in search of the "American Dream." They were seeking a life that they could never have within the borders of poverty stricken Italy. Poverty, overpopulation, and natural disaster were all problems in Italy. This resulted in Italians seeking out employment in America to save their families from poverty.

In the early 1900?s Italy suffered many problems. The illiteracy rate in Southern Italy was 70%, ten times worse then England, Germany, and France. Northerners dominated the Italian government; therefore the South was hurt by high taxes, and high protective tariffs on northern industrial goods. The South also suffered from the lack of farming land, soil erosion and deforestation, and a lack of coal and iron ore needed for industry. Also, Landlords had control of land and they charged high rent, paid low wages, and did not provide stable employment. Between 1870 and 1900 production of foodstuffs, except for fresh fruit, fish, tomatoes, and vegetables, slowed. Thus, malnutrition spread throughout Italy. Italy was also stricken with natural disasters. Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried a town near Naples, and Mount Etna also erupted. In 1908, an earthquake and tidal wave swept through Italy killing more then 100,000 people in the city of Messina alone. By the beginning of World War 1, Italy was losing 500,000 people a year to emigration.

Italians began migrating to foreign countries in the 19th century. During this time, more Italians migrated to South America then North America. Mass migration to the United States began as early as 1872, but substantial Italian immigration to the United States is noted between 1884 and 1920 when approximately 7 million Italians arrived. Most Italian immigrants departed from Southern Italy and landed in New York City. Italian arrivals increased by...