Italians did not immigrate to America in very large numbers before 1850. South America was the predominate area of immigration for Italians. The rate of immigration from Italy started changing around 1880. After 1880 Italian immigration to America began to increase. During the time period between 1850 and 1880 most Italian immigrants were from the northern regions of Italy. The area the immigrants came from began to change after 1880 with the majority coming from southern Italy. There were many push factors that contributed to the changes in the pattern of immigration from Italy to America which resulted in 3.2 million Italians immigrating to America between 1900 and 1920. According to census reports in 1850 the Italian population in America was 3,645 (Iorizzo & Mondello, 1980). Between 1850 and 1880 the number of Italian immigrants in America basically doubled each year ending with an Italian population of 44,230 in 1880. There was then an increase in immigration from Italy. The 1890 census report shows the Italian population to be 182,580 (Lord, 1905) .This was more than the steady doubling in prior years. From 1890 until 1899 the number of Italian immigrants each year ranged from 40,000 to 70,000 and by 1900 655,888 Italians had immigrated to America (Lord, 1905). The largest jump in immigration can be seen between 1900 and 1920 when 3.2 Italians immigrated to America (Pretelli, 2013). The majority of these immigrants came from southern Italy and there were many reasons for that.
Southern Italy holds the majority of the lower class and has some of the most poverty stricken areas. Italy had many issues at hand during this time frame. They were experiencing a population growth that was higher than the amount of national product (Iorizzo & Mondello, 1980). Job shortages combined with a decline in income led to great poverty and food shortages (Pretelli, 2013). Conditions in southern Italy were similar to share cropping.