Educational Patterns of Italian Immigrants to New York

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Pre-1860 Italians from northern Italy immigrated to America. These immigrants were educated and owned businesses. Post-1860 most of the Italians who travelled to American were illiterate. Since these immigrants had no plans on staying in America they did not bother to learn English. Since these immigrants did not know English they were unable to move up the social ladder. [1]

Since most Italian Americans were uneducated they were easy prays for bosses as well as criminals. Boss would cheat their Italian workers out of money knowing that the Italians did not have the knowledge to sue the bosses. Criminals would target Italian Americans by fooling them into giving away their money.

People who worked in companies that specialized in transporting immigrants to the interior states would send employers to New York to fool immigrants into paying for overpriced railroad or steam ship tickets. These employers were called “runners” and they spoke to the immigrants in the immigrants language so immigrants trusted these people. These runners survived on the fact that immigrants were uneducated and had great success with Italian immigrants who where both uneducated and since the Italians believed in strong kinship bonds they never expected someone who spoke Italian to betray them.


  1. Binder, Frederick, and David Reimers. All the Nations Under Heaven(40-42). New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.