Socio-Economic Conditions of Southern and Eastern European Immigrants in the United States, 1880-1924

Open Access
Reitenauer, Owen William
Area of Honors:
Global Studies (Berks/Lehigh)
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Randall Arlin Fegley, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sandy Feinstein, Honors Advisor
  • Kirwin Ray Shaffer, Faculty Reader
  • Migration; United States;
Did the majority of southern and eastern European immigrants that entered the U.S. from 1880 through 1924 begin as an underclass, living in poverty? In addition, did these migrants only have the ability to work menial levels of employment? In a similar context, were northwestern European migrants able to obtain more opportunities than southern and eastern Europeans? If so, did northwestern Europeans restrict the latter? Could this have caused the perception of an underclass among southern and eastern Europeans? Ultimately, could this perception have led to negative behaviors or actions against these groups? What policies were implemented during this period to restrict southern and eastern European migrants? In addition, what effects did these policies have on southern and eastern European migrants? From 1880 to 1924, the U.S. government enacted immigration policies. The majority of these policies were restrictive in nature. My research on historical data, including congressional policies, memoirs, and scholarly works on such topics identifies the possible causes of the change in U.S. attitude towards migrants. Numerous theoretical models influenced societal reactions towards this group. Research indicates various political movements that influenced policy makers during this period. There is a correlation between the economic and social opportunities of southern and eastern European migrants based on societal, individual policy makers’ or political movements’ perceptions of this group.