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Southern-Italian Americans and the 99% vs. 1% American Class Dichotomy

Southern-Italian Americans and the 99% vs. 1% American Class Dichotomy

Tom Verso (July 6, 2012)
“A picture is worth a thousand words”

Clearly, the accompanying picture captures the reality of the class character of American’s current political economy; i.e. great masses of people who had no say in government/economic decisions are suffering the consequences of those decisions. They have lost jobs, pensions, health insurance, homes, and even gone to jail. At the same time the 1% who made the decisions, leading to the horrendous consequences for 99% of the people, got and still are getting rich and richer. Meanwhile, the Italian American literati and promeneti have been engaged in mock-heroic (Windmill Tilting) debates, about ‘Guidos and Gangsters’ in the media. Talk about ‘Ivory Tower’ aloof! These upper middle class Italian Americans, perfect examples of what Hesse characterized as “Magister Ludi - Glass Bead Game” players, are completely oblivious and unconcerned that the vast majority of near seventeen million southern-Italian Americans are solidly in the ranks of the 99% masses... “Ya know, professor Italiano Amerdacano...Like I just lost my job, pension, health insurance and the bank is threatening to foreclose on my home! But ya know what REALLY bothers me is the image of Italian Americans on the Sopranos and Jersey Shore. I really appreciate your commitment to, and all that you are doing for, southern-Italian Americans... By the way buddy, have you got a dime.”


Southern-Italian American Demographics

Demographic data, in the US Census Departments “2005-2007 American Community Survey (ACS)", describing over 17 million self-identified Americans of Italian descent, clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that Italian Americans (more accurately southern-Italian Americans, the vast majority are descended from southern Italian immigrants) are part of the 99% of Americans who are suffering the economic consequences of economic decisions made by 1% of the population.
The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years.  The 2005-2007 ACS three-year estimates are based on data collected between January 2005 and December 2007.
Significantly 2007 was year before the crash, so we have a ‘snapshot' of Italian Americans just before the crash. Specifically for this article, the facts about the Education attainment levels and Occupation categories of southern-Italian Americans in 2007 allows us to make inferences about their economic plight post the 2008 ‘Crash’.
Table I
Education Attainment of Italian Americans 25 years and older
Less than high school diploma
9.6 %
High School diploma or GED
Some college or Associate Degree
Total less than college Bachelors
67.8 %
Bachelors Degree
Graduate or Professional Degree
(For a much more detailed presentation of ACS Italian American Education Attainment statistics, see the link “Italian Americans by the Numbers – Education: Who will educate our children?” in the ‘related articles’ box on this page.)
As the above table indicates, over two-thirds of the southern-Italian Americans over the age of 25 have an education of less than a bachelors degree.
Can there be any doubt that they are part of the 99%ers?  How many of the 1%ers have an education level of less than a Bachelors Degree?
Now consider the occupation statistics.
Table II
Occupation 16 years and older:
Farming, fish, forestry
Construction, extraction, maintence, and repair
Product, transport, material moving
Total Non-Professional Work
60.8 %
Professional / Management

(For a much more detail presentation of ACS Italian American Employment statistics, see the link “Italian Americans by the Numbers – Employment” in the ‘related articles’ box on this page.)
As would be expected; with 67.8% of southern-Italian Americans having less education than a Bachelors degree, it follows that 60.8% of southern-Italian Americans are working in non-professional jobs. 
In as much as ‘non-professional’ equates with relatively low-wages, it is a logical inference from these facts that, the majority of southern-Italian Americans are part of the 99% socio-economic class.
Unemployment of southern-Italian Americans
There are no statistics about unemployment levels of southern-Italian Americans per se.  However, there are statistics correlating Unemployment with Education Level, which in turn allow us to make inferences about southern-Italian American unemployment.
Below is a chart showing Percentage of Unemployment by Level of Education. On the chartI have overlaid a ‘note’ indicating which unemployment ‘lines’  are associated with southern-Italian Americas, and also comment.
(Chart originally created by the “Calculated Risk” blog and reproduced by James Joiner in his “Outside the Beltway” blog at

The above chart clearly indicates those with less than a Bachelors degree level of education (i.e. Red, Purple and Green lines) are suffering far worse unemployment than those with a Bachelors or higher (i.e. Blue line). 
Accordingly, from the facts of Italian American education attainment described in the Census data and the facts of unemployment level by education attainment in the above chart, we can infer a very high percentage of Italian Americans are suffering significant economic hardship and anxiety.
The literati and promenite pour out publications and have conferences and celebrity parties, about Food, Wine, Art, Guidos, Gangsters, Renaissance glories, Little Italy nostalgia, and on and on...
But nary a word, a sound, a peep about the low levels of southern Italian American education attainment, low-income employment, high unemployment and economic hardship – go figure!    

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Thank for adding an Italian

Thank for adding an Italian American voice to the debates about class. But your piece here is unfortunately almost entirely without any usefulness for one reason: you seek to show a special place for Italian Americans in the 99%, but you do not compare Italian Americans a a group to the US population as a whole. Granted, there's stagnant mobility and growing inequality, but look at the data. By your own data, 32.2% of Italian Americans haves a bachelor's degree or higher. According to the 2010 census, 29.9% of the US population does. Your data also show that 39.2% of Italian Americans hold professional/managerial jobs. According to the same census, 36.6% of all Americans do. By almost every socio-economic indicator, Italian Americans are at par with or ahead of other Americans--for many reasons. To single us out as special victims of class inequality is simply wrong, and does no one a service.