Between 1890 and 1939 the Italian settlement had developed and its major institutions had formed. In 1890 the population of New Haven was about 81,000. By 1920 it had doubled, reaching 162,655. Much of this increase was due to the large numbers of immigrants, many of them Italian, who came to the city during that period. In the 1930’s there was no increase in New Haven’s population. Immigration had been severely restricted and the birth rate had decreased during the Depression years.
There were 41,858 Italians in the city in 1930, of whom 14,510 had been born in Italy. One or both parents of another 27,348 had come from Italy. The Italians comprised about one-fourth of the total population and were highly concentrated in wards 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12, the southern and eastern parts of New Haven immediately surrounding the New Haven Green, except for Ward 6, which extended down Davenport Avenue to the West Haven city line. They were also the most densely populated parts of the city, with wards 5 and 12 having 64 and 66 persons per acre, respectively (the average for the city was 21 per acre).
A statistical survey of New Haven showed that 5,302 Negroes comprised 3% of the population of New Haven in 1931. About 50% of all blacks in the city lived in Ward 19, the Dixwell neighborhood. Another 35% clustered near Ward 19 in the center of the city, almost all in neighborhoods touching on the Green and extending to the North and West. The one exception were the 202 Negroes who lived in Ward 12, to the East of the Green.
Negroes were hard hit by the Depression. Before long 37% of all business locations in Ward 19 were vacant, the largest percentage of vacant businesses of any ward in the city. The downtown neighborhood surrounding the Green was also hit hard. Sixteen percent of all families in Ward 19 were receiving unemployment relief. This was comparable to the relief rate of the heavily Italian wards of the city, which ran from 9% of all families in Ward 5 to 16% of all families in Ward 12.