Italian Americans

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Italian Americans are people who were born in the United States yet are of Italian origin. The bulk of Italian Americans live in urban centres in the Northeast and in urban industrial districts in the Midwest, while there are substantial groups in a number of other major US metropolitan areas.

From 1820 to 2004, around 5.5 million Italians moved to the United States, coming in many waves, with the biggest number entering in the twentieth century from Southern Italy, according to census data. Initially, many Italian immigrants (typically single males), known as "birds of passage," sent remittances back to their family in Italy and, ultimately, returned to Italy; however, many other immigrants remained in the United States, resulting in the huge Italian-American communities that exist now.

Approximately 25,000 Italian immigrants lived in the United States in 1870, before the large wave of Italian immigrants arrived in the country. The majority of these have been Northern Italy refugees from wars that preceded the Risorgimento, the struggle for Italian unification and independence from foreign rule that ended in 1870.

The pace of immigration started to rise in the 1870s, when more than twice as many Italians came as had come over the preceding five decades put together began arriving. After that, the greatest wave of immigration occurred between 1880 and 1914, bringing more than 4 million Italians to the United States, the vast majority of whom came from the Southern Italian regions of Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily, which were still primarily rural and agricultural and where much of the populace had been impoverished by centuries of foreign misrule and also the large tax burdens levied after Italian unification in 1861. Large-scale immigration ceased suddenly with the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and, with the exception of one year (1922), was never completely restarted, though many Italians were able to immigrate despite new quota-based immigration limitations, as was the case in the United States. Several laws passed by Congress in the 1920s restricted Italian immigration, including the Immigration Act of 1924, which was specifically designed to reduce immigration from Italy and other Southern European countries, as well as immigration from Eastern European countries, by limiting annual immigration per country to a number proportionate to each nationality's existing share of the United States population in 1920, as determined by the National Origins Formula (which calculated Italy to be the fifth-largest national origin of the U.S., to be allotted 3.87 percent of annual quota immigrant spots).

Following Italian unification, the Kingdom of Italy first promoted emigration in order to alleviate economic strains in Southern Italy, but this policy was eventually abandoned. As a consequence of the American Civil Battle, which resulted in the deaths or injuries of more than a half million people, immigrant labourers from Italy and other countries were recruited to cover the labour shortfall produced by the war. In the United States, the vast majority of Italian immigrants started their new lives as manual workers in eastern towns, mining camps, and farmland, among other places. Italians mostly moved in the Northeastern United States and other industrial areas in the Midwest, where there were employment for working-class people. During the first and second generations, the descendants of Italian immigrants progressively advanced from a lower economic class to a level equivalent to the national average by 1970. Throughout, the Italians community has been characterized by strong connections to families, the Catholic Church, fraternal groups, and political parties, among other aspects.