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Recognizing these facts, and also the importance of the question, the Immigration Commission decided to make as careful an investigation as was practicable.* Seven large cities representing different sections of the country, different industrial interests and to a considerable extent the different immigrant races, were selected-New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee. By careful inquiries the sections of the city were chosen where the living conditions were the worst, and blocks were taken, as far as possible, that were inhabited largely by the representatives of a single race, in order that if there were any racial tendencies to live in poor conditions, these. might easily be discovered.

In order that not exceptional but average conditions. might be noted, it was decided to question carefully · every family within the area chosen. In most cases. one side of the street between two cross streets was selected. As many as one hundred families at least, of each race or nationality, were taken in order that the conditions shown might be average, not exceptional. In a number of instances two hundred families and more of a special race in one city were taken. In a few cases, where it was not possible to find within one block or within two or three blocks situated nearly together so many families of one race, those families were found in different sections of the city, and thus the ratio number was made complete, even tho the families were somewhat scattered. Generally speaking, however, the figures given represent living conditions in certain sections of a city where every family was investigated.

* Reports of Immigration Commission, Vols. 26 and 27.

Ten thousand two hundred and six households were visited and the statistics of 51,006 individuals were taken. It should not be forgotten that the investigation concerns only the overcrowded, poor quarters of the city. In those sections, however, the record is not that of the extreme cases, but of every case, and while very many most unfortunate conditions were found, the fact is clearly established that a large majority of the immigrants in these great cities lead a hardworking, honest life, that their homes are reasonably clean, and that the undesirable conditions found in these congested quarters are in many instances not the fault of the inhabitants, but exist largely in spite of them, owing to the fact that the city authorities do not provide sufficient facilities for an adequate water supply, for proper cleaning of the streets, and for satisfactory drainage and sewerage conditions.


The investigation shows that the length of time that the people have been in the United States is a very important factor affecting congestion. After the inhabitants have remained here for a considerable length of time, usually the wages are high enough so that they can acquire some property, and thus afford to move out from very congested localities into sections where living conditions are much better.

Overcrowding is largely from economic necessity. It can hardly be said to be a matter of choice on the part of any race, or of more than a few individuals.

In the districts visited in these great cities, the races numerically best represented are the South Italians, Hebrews, Polish, Slovaks, Syrians and Lithuanians;


while among the races that have been in this country for a longer period, the Irish, Bohemian and German are the ones most frequently found. In all of the cities studied, the Russian Hebrews and South Italians are the principal races in the congested districts. In Chicago and Milwaukee, the Poles, Bohemians and other Slavic races are, relatively speaking, much more numerous than in the Atlantic coast cities.

Out of every 100 foreign-born male heads of households investigated, 48 have come to the United States within the past ten years, and 21 within five years. The Magyars have the largest per cent. of arrivals within the past ten years, 84 out of 100. The foreignborn negroes have the next largest proportion. It is a matter of surprize to many people that the negroes are coming into the country as immigrants, but at the present time large numbers are arriving, especially from Porto Rico and other West India Islands.

It is noteworthy, also, that the immigration, at any rate in the districts studied, seems to be largely migration from the country to the city, of people that heretofore have been unfamiliar with city conditions. Out of each 100 sixteen years of age or over at the time of coming to the United States, 39 had been engaged in farming in the country from which they came. The Irish show the highest proportion of those who were farmers abroad-69 per cent. The Lithuanians are next with 67 per cent. The South Italians have 44 per cent., while very few Hebrews, either Russians or others, were farmers in Europe. Only 3.6 per cent. of the Russian Hebrews and 5.5 per cent. of other Hebrews were engaged in agricultural pursuits abroad.


The number of persons living in the houses is, on the average, smaller than is ordinarily believed. In the households investigated, the average of the number of persons for 100 rooms was only 134, and for 100 sleeping rooms 232. The cities may be arranged with reference to the condition of crowding in the following order: Boston, 144 persons for 100 rooms; Philadelphia, 141; Cleveland, 140; New York, 139; Buffalo, 133; Chicago, 126; Milwaukee, 114. It should also be kept in mind that the question of overcrowding is rather a matter of rooms, or sleeping rooms, than a crowding of people upon the ground area. Living conditions are often much better in large tenement houses, where they are reasonably well regulated by law, than in smaller private houses that have been converted for the use of several families.

The investigation shows that the congestion is considerably greater in foreign than in native households, whether whites or negroes are taken into consideration. Among the immigrant races represented by 100 or more households, the degree of congestion was found greatest among the Slovenians, where the average number of persons for 100 rooms reached 172. The South Italians average 166, the Poles 155, the Russian Hebrews 147. The lowest average is among the Swedes, where the average number of persons for 100 rooms was only 93, and the Germans, with an average of 99.


Perhaps a better test of the condition of congestion is found by the average number of persons per sleeping-room. By this test, the Slovenians again occupy

the bad preeminence, with 2.99 persons per sleepingroom. The Poles with 2.72 persons, South Italians with 2.54, and Magyars with 2.43, rank high in this regard. The Russian Hebrews have 2.38. In this respect, also, the Swedes have the best record with only 1.92 per sleeping-room, and the Germans have 2.03. The native-born people are on the whole distinctly better-1.93 for whites and 1.78 for negroes.

In the immigrant households 32.8 per cent. have at least three persons per sleeping-room, while among the households of the native whites only 18.8 per cent. have that many per sleeping-room. Only 0.8 per cent. of these native-born whites have as many as five persons per sleeping-room, while among the Slovenians 13.8 per cent. have five or more per room and 5.2 per cent. have six or more per sleeping-room. No other race has half as large a percentage with six or more per sleeping-room as the Slovenians, the Bohemians-Moravians ranking next with 2.4 per cent., the Greeks with 2 per cent. The Russian Hebrews have only 1.2 per cent., and the South Italians 2 per cent., while among the Swedes the number found with six per sleeping-room was too small for computation of percentages.

Of all the Greek households investigated, 42.9 per cent. occupied all of their rooms as sleeping-rooms; 42.1 per cent. of the Syrians, and 22.7 per cent. of the South Italians occupied all of their rooms; whereas of the Swedes only 0.7 per cent. occupied all of their rooms as sleeping-rooms, and of the negroes who were immigrants only 0.8 per cent. On the other hand, 7.6 per cent. of the native-born negroes of native fathers occupied all their rooms as sleepingrooms, as did 2.3 per cent. of the native whites.

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