Is Boston more Irish or Italian? The simple answer is yes, Boston is more Irish than Italian. Italian immigrants make up about 3% of Boston’s population, with 15% reporting Italian descent. Meanwhile, those of Irish descent make up about 20% of the city’s population. Despite the numbers, Italian immigrants carved out space for themselves that still exists today.
By the 1800s, Boston was an attractive city for many immigrants. It had become a booming industrial center with plenty of job opportunities. During this time, many Irish immigrants were escaping the ravages of famine and found a home in Boston’s North End. The neighborhood was close to the water and downtown, which meant work was easily accessible. Overall, more than one million Irish immigrants traveled to Boston from 1815 to 1855. By 1920, half of Boston’s Irish immigrants lived there.
Everything that drew the Irish to the North End attracted the new wave of Italian immigrants as well. They packed into the same tiny apartments, sought work in the same industries, and began to make a new home for themselves. Those who had money and a skilled background began opening businesses in the neighborhood, while community members often gathered to nurture the traditions of their homeland.
Not surprisingly, the Irish didn’t take to their Italian neighbors too kindly. They saw them as a threat to their economic security, and there were many reports of violent incidents and overall tension between the two. Eventually, the Irish retreated to South Boston and left the North End to their Italian rivals.
Over time, The North End became known as Little Italy and has become one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. Italian restaurants and grocery stores line the streets, and traditional festivals, like Saint Anthony’s Feast, are celebrated every year. The North End has even produced the minds behind popular Italian-American brands like Dragone cheese, Prince spaghetti, and Pastene sauces.
The area has even become one of the city’s most sought after neighborhoods, with young professionals buying up real estate as soon as it hits to market. Despite fears of gentrification, many agree that the new residents enjoy the neighborhood as it is and want to keep its Italian roots thriving.
In conclusion, though Boston may be home to more Irish descendants than Italians, the Italians still play an important role in the city’s continued growth.