Data Sets Organized by Occupation

Immigrants’ occupations played a significant role in shaping their lives in America and determining how much they could save.  That New York’s Irish-born doctors amassed greater savings than any other Irish immigrant group, for example, is not surprising.  But other groups did far better than one might have expected.  Peddlers, for instance, saved more than any other Irish-born occupational group except doctors, saloonkeepers, and policemen. Even lowly day laborers saved surprisingly large sums, more than carpenters, printers, stone cutters, and tailors. Laborers managed to accumulate more savings than one might imagine in part because they did not remain in that line of work forever. Among the day laborers whose lives are chronicled in that document set, one became a truck driver, another became a porter, and others eventually worked as farmers, policemen, and saloonkeepers. These document sets do not merely convey a sense of how immigrants’ occupations shaped their lives, but also demonstrate that the ability to transition into other, more remunerative lines of work was often what enabled immigrants to achieve financial stability.