Italian Immigration: Staying and Returning


Figure 1.-- Available information suggests that more than half of the immigrants stayed. And the Italins came in such numbers that they became one of the major immigrant grops despite the high level of teturnees. We do not yet have data on this, but we believe many of the Retournati were men, especially single men. We believe that women and children were much more likely to stay.

The Italian immigration is notable not only for the number who stayed and made successful lives in America, but also or the number who returned to Italy. Perhaps because of strong family ties, many came to America to earn money and then return to Italy. We do not yet have data on this, but we believe many ofthe Retournati were men, especially single men. We believe that women and children were much more likely to stay. The Retournati were commonly Italians often from deprived backgrounds who returned to Italy with money and were able to buy land and live in vastly improved circumstances. There is no statistical data on this. Scholars hve estimated that returns may have totaled anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the immigrants who entered the United States. [Archdeacon] Even the Retoirnati stimulated immigration. Their tales of life in America helped create an image of America which caused more Italians to immigrate. The impact on Italy itself must have been significant, but I do not yet know of a study which addresses this. Perhaps our Italian readers will be more familiar with the literature. A reader writes, "Most Italian immigrants dreamed of returning, especially the single men that came. Those that did were commonly called "Birds of Pasage." My brother-in-law returned to Italy recently for a visit after an absense of about 50 years. One thing he said was that the family members kidded him on how he spoke Italian. They said he had a very "old fashioned" way of speaking. This shows how languages change over time. Also, there is more emphasis on speaking Italian as it is taught in school these days, rather than the local dialect. Italians in Americ , for the most part, worked very hard to save as much money as possible, either to return to Italy, or send to the family "back home". I remember reading one account of three Italian immigrants who lived in a boarding house, each one working a differenct shift in a factory, so that they occupied a bed 24 hours a day to save money."

Motivation


Staying

We are not entirely sure what destinguished the Italians who stayed from those who returned. Available information suggests that more than half of the immigrants stayed. And the Italins came in such numbers that they became one of the major immigrant grops despite the high level of returnees. We do note that Italian immigrants were somewhat less likely to enter the political process are seek naturalization than many other immigrant groups.

Returning--The Retournati

The Italian immigration is notable not only for the number who stayed and made successful lives in America, but also or the number who returned to Italy. No other immigrant group returned home in such numbers. Perhaps because of strong family ties, many came to America to earn money and then return to Italy. The Retournati were commonly Italians often from deprived backgrounds who returned to Italy with money and were able to buy land and live in vastly improved circumstances. There is no statistical data on this. Scholars hve estimated that returns may have totaled anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the immigrants who entered the United States. [Archdeacon] Italians in America for the most part, worked very hard to save as much money as possible, either to return to Italy, or send to the family "back home". I remember reading one account of three Italian immigrants who lived in a boarding house, each one working a differenct shift in a factory, so that they occupied a bed 24 hours a day to save money.

Gender

We do not yet have data on this, but we believe many ofthe Retournati were men, especially single men. We believe that women and children were much more likely to stay.

Political Situation

One factor in the high number of returnees was surely the factor that Italy was a unified country before the Italians began coming in large numbers. This meant that they had a country to return to. The Jews and erhnic groups that came from the Russian and Austrian-Hungarian Empires did not have a country to retirn to and if they returned faced varying degrees of political and social oppression. Also authorities in those two empires were not all that anxious to have American immigrants return, slthough here I do not yet have any detailed information.

Impact on Immigration

So many Italians immigrants returned that one might think that this would discourafe further emigration from Italy. In fct it did not. Even the Retoirnati stimulated immigration. Their tales of life in America helped create an image of America which caused more Italians to immigrate.

Impact on Italy

The impact on Italy itself must have been significant, but I do not yet know of a study which addresses this. Perhaps our Italian readers will be more familiar with the literature.

Reader Comments

A reader writes, "Most Italian immigrants dreamed of returning, especially the single men that came. Those that did were commonly called "Birds of Pasage." My brother-in-law returned to Italy recently for a visit after an absense of about 50 years. One thing he said was that the family members kidded him on how he spoke Italian. They said he had a very "old fashioned" way of speaking. This shows how languages change over time. Also, there is more emphasis on speaking Italian as it is taught in school these days, rather than the local dialect."







CIH





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Created: 7:02 PM 9/18/2006
Last updated: 7:02 PM 9/18/2006