Back in the Day
Mulberry Street: the epicenter of Little Italy during the peak of Italian immigration

Today’s current demographics reflect the effects of the massive influx of Asian immigration. The new waves of Asian immigrants drastically changed the ethnic makeup and population, shrinking the area into the Little Italy we see today.

Little Italy’s total population is approximately 10,680. Of those people, 4,766 are White making up 44.6% of the total. Very similar to the White population, the Asian population is approximately 44.7% or 4,776. Only 5.7% of the residents are of Hispanic descent and only 1.5% are Black. The other 3.5% of the residents are either of mixed descendent or other races and ethnicities. Although the White and Asian population appear similar in numbers, many of the White residents aren’t necessarily of Italian ancestry.

Of the residents of Little Italy, the percentage of those who reported to be of Italian ancestry is only 8%. This is due to the fact that many of the families who once inhabited Little Italy and were of Italian descent relocated to other boroughs over the years. The majority of the residents who self-reported identified as of “Other” or “Unclassified” ancestry. The U.S Census Bureau data emphasizes the extreme overshadowing of Asian immigrants to Italian immigrants. Because such a majority of the population was born in Asia, it makes sense for these residents to have a strong, powerful connection to Asian culture, resulting in the expansion of Chinatown. On the other hand, because there’s so few Italian residents left, Little Italy has turned into more of a façade, rather than a genuine, authentic representation of the culture.

Within the modern Little Italy, the residents who are US born are far greater than those born abroad. The total count of US-born citizens in 5,879 while those born abroad is only around 204. This is a complete contrast to the origins of Little Italy, which was once home to a majority of Italian immigrants. Perhaps the most pressing problem facing Little Italy today is the explosive growth of Chinatown, causing the Italian enclave to shrink more and more as the years go by. As Asian immigrants buy buildings of major historical value and continue to force Italian residents out, the real, authentic Italian culture that could once be found is long gone. Instead, there remains small businesses and restaurants who have survived the influx of Asian immigration and modernization, trying their hardest to remain profitable. In efforts to maximize profit, these local businesses often shift their main focus to catering to the world-wide tourists, while still trying to grasp to bits and pieces of original Italian culture.

Taking a closer look at the residents, 2,248 people live in one-person households, making up approximately 45% of the population. About 1,443 residents live in married households, forming a minority of the population. The data above shows that most people live in either one-person households or reside in single/non-family homes. The somewhat low percentage of married households stems from the fact that even today, the apartments and tenements in Little Italy are extremely small. Crowded, cramped tenements don’t provide the best home for couples or families; over the decades, Italian immigrant families have moved into more spacious boroughs.

Little Italy is made up of residents of varying education levels. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, 34.97% of the residents have received a bachelor’s degree, 23.46% have received a graduate degree, and 2.64% have received an associate’s degree. While some of the residents, approximately 11.26%, have received no high school education, the remaining residents have gone through some levels of schooling, whether it be high school or college. Secondary education has allowed various residents to achieve white collar jobs. In fact, approximately 95.41% of residents currently work white collar jobs, with a small percentage of 4.59% working blue collar jobs. The first Italians who emigrated to New York City worked mostly in the garment industry, which today would be considered a blue collar job. Over the years, as more and more residents have reached economic prosperity, education has become more accessible, resulting in the increase of white collar jobs. The data below shows the different industry sectors the residents are employed in. The majority of Little Italy’s population works in private companies, approximately 72.59% of the residents.

The average household income in Little Italy is $252,811, with a majority of the residents (24,252 people) living above poverty level. Residents over the age of 65 earn an average income of $35,00, making the least amount of money compared to other age groups. In fact, as seen below, residents in between the ages of 25 and 44 make the most money, around $190,000. Most of these residents are employed in private companies or self employed, which is supported by the graphs above. The median household income is $106,056; this is the monetary value that divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount. Despite the economic prosperity that various residents experience, approximately 3,233 residents still live below poverty level.