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An Italian American is an American of Italian descent either born in America or someone who has immigrated.

Although Italians arrived early to the new world, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1492, and continuing with early explorers John Cabot, Giovanni da Verrazano and Amerigo Vespucci, the largest wave of Italian immigration to the United States took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Between 1820 and 1978, 5.3 million Italians immigrated to the United States, including over two million in the years 1900-1910 alone (although about one-fourth of all Italian immigrants did not settle permanently in America and eventually returned to Italy). Only the Irish and Germans immigrated in larger numbers.

In the 2000 U.S. Census, Italian Americans constituted the seventh largest ancestry group in America with about 15.6 million people (5.6% of the total U.S. population).1

Common stereotypes continue to link Italian Americans to organized crime and restaurant workers [1] (, unflattering images which remain staples of Hollywood movies. Certainly, organized-crime was never as honorable as the romanticized "Godfather" portrayed, and many of that novel's alleged Sicilian cultural mentions were, indeed, as Neapolitan as the author of Mario Puzo's family background in and around Naples; so-called "families" in the Mafia were always a mixture of Calabrese, Napolitano and Siciliani, along with some Jewish and Irish elements. Nevertheless, the National Italian American Foundation found that two-thirds of Italian Americans held white collar jobs in 1990 and that there were never more than a few thousand individuals in the Mafia.

Like other ethnic groups in the USA their political beliefs are diverse. The U.S. Congress includes Italian Americans who are regarded as leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

In some Italian-American communities, Saint Joseph's Day (March 19) is marked with celebrations and parades. Columbus Day is also widely celebrated in these communities, as are the feasts of some regional Italian patron saints, most notably San Gennaro (September 19) by those claiming Neapolitan heritage, and Santa Rosalia (September 4) by Sicilians.


Italian-American communities

Places that you would never suspect have communities of Italian Americans, such as Omaha, Nebraska and New Orleans, which is the first site of immigration of Italians and Sicilians into America, before Italy was even a complete nation unto itself. While the American South has traditionally had very few Italian immigrants, exceptions are noted in the industrial cities of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama.

In Kansas City, Missouri, the areas known as "North of the River" (and the former areas of "The North End" and "Northeast Kansas City") have flourished with Italian-American families, mostly from a Sicilian heritage, working on anywhere from 3rd to 5th generation! Kansas City was even notorious, unfortunately, for its own crime-group, known as "The Black Hand", Mafia or The Mob, but not Cosa Nostra. Smaller "outfits" in cities other than New York and Chicago, like Kansas City, are virtually extinct or seemingly dying.

The following is a list of areas known for their concentrations Italian Americans. It is not an exhaustive list.

A list of people who have referred to themselves ethnically as "Italian," or have an Italian parent can be seen at the list of Italian Americans.

Italian in the United States

According to the Sons of Italy News Bureau ( from 1998 to 2002, the enrollment in Italian language courses grew by 30%, faster than the enrollment rates for Spanish, French, and German. Italian is the fourth most commonly taught foreign language in U.S. colleges and universities behind Spanish, French, and German. According to the U. S. 2000 Census, Italian (besides English and Spanish) is the fifth (seventh overall) most spoken language in the United States (tied with Vietnamese) with over 1 million speakers.2

Template:Sectfact As a result of the large wave of Italian immigration to the United States of America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Italian language was once widely spoken in much of the USA, especially in northeastern and Great Lakes area cities as well as San Francisco and New Orleans. Italian-language newspapers existed in many American cities, especially New York City, and Italian-language movie theatres existed in the USA as late as the 1950s. With the assimilation of the Italian-American population, the Italian language has largely disappeared as a primary language in America, although it can still be heard amongst some older residents of New York City, and ATM machines in some New York neighborhoods offer services in Italian as well as English and Spanish.


  1. Brittingham, Angela, and G. Patricia De La Cruz. Ancestry: 2000. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, 2004. (
  2. Language Use and English-Speaking Ability: 2000 (

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