White on Arrival

February 24, 2015

There's a claim by "whiteness studies" enthusiasts that when Italians first immigrated to America they were considered "non-white" or "in-between black and white" and denied privileges as a result. American historian Thomas Guglielmo disproves this by showing that whatever ethnic prejudice Italians faced was based on their "race" (e.g. South Italian, Latin, Mediterranean etc.) but not their "color", which was always classified as white/Caucasian, even by anti-immigrant racialists.

In January 1942, Ed Peterson, an African American from Chicago, wrote a letter to the Chicago Defender. With America's wartime propaganda machine glorifying the nation's past, Peterson was irritated that this past so often ignored African Americans. Instead, thrifty, hard-working European immigrants supposedly made America—settling its untamed wilderness, laboring in its factories, and farming and peopling its vast frontier. "One would imagine," wrote Peterson, "that the colored race never did any thing to build up the country." Moreover, he argued, European immigrants arrived in the United States with privileges that most African Americans could only dream of.

[...]

All of this said, however, Ed Peterson's remarks contained more than a kernel of truth. In the end, Italians' many perceived racial inadequacies aside, they were still largely accepted as white by the widest variety of people and institutions—naturalization laws and courts, the U.S. census, race science, anti-immigrant racialisms, newspapers, unions, employers, neighbors, realtors, settlement houses, politicians, and political parties. This widespread acceptance was reflected most concretely in Italians' ability to naturalize as U.S. citizens, apply for certain jobs, live in certain neighborhoods, marry certain partners, and patronize certain movie theaters, restaurants, saloons, hospitals, summer camps, parks, beaches, and settlement houses. In so many of these situations, as Peterson and the Defender well recognized, one color line existed separating "whites" from the "colored races"—groups such as "Negroes," "Orientals," and sometimes "Mexicans." And from the moment they arrived in Chicago—and forever after—Italians were consistently and unambiguously placed on the side of the former. If Italians were racially undesirable in the eyes of many Americans, they were white just the same.

They were so securely white, in fact, that Italians themselves rarely had to aggressively assert the point. Indeed, not until World War II did many Italians identify openly and mobilize politically as white. After the early years of migration and settlement, when Italy remained merely an abstraction to many newcomers, their strongest allegiance was to the Italian race, not the white one. Indeed, one of the central concerns of this book is to understand how Italianita', as both a racial and national consciousness, came to occupy such a central part of many Italians' self-understandings. For much of the turn-of-the-century and interwar years, then, Italians were white on arrival not so much because of the way they viewed themselves, but because of the way others viewed and treated them.

[...]

To understand fully these consequences, one more conceptual tool is critical: the distinction between race and color. Initially, I conceived of my project as a "wop to white" study, an Italian version of Noel Ignatiev's How the Irish Became White. I quickly realized, however, that Italians did not need to become white; they always were in numerous, critical ways. Furthermore, race was more than black and white. If Italians' status as whites was relatively secure, they still suffered, as noted above, from extensive racial discrimination and prejudice as Italians, South Italians, Latins, and so on. [...] I argue that between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries there were primarily two ways of categorizing people based on supposedly inborn physical, mental, moral, and cultural traits. The first is color (which roughly coincides with today's census categories): the black, brown, red, white, and yellow races. Color, as I use it, is a social category and not a physical description. "White" Italians, for instance, could be darker than "black" Americans. Second is race, which could mean many things: large groups like Nordics and Mediterraneans, medium-sized ones like the Celts and Hebrews, or smaller ones like the North or South Italians. [...] For example, the federal government's naturalization applications throughout much of the early twentieth century asked applicants to provide their race and color. For Italians, the only acceptable answers were North or South Italian for [race] and white for [color].

[...]

Finally, this study is deeply indebted to whiteness historiography and the indispensable work of David Roediger, James Barrett, Theodore Allen,
Alexander Saxton, and many others. Nonetheless, I challenge several key arguments in much (though not all) of this historiography, especially the claim that European immigrants arrived in the United States as "inbetween peoples" and only became fully white over time and after a great deal of struggle. Numerous scholars in a wide range of disciplines have uncritically accepted this argument. I contend that challenges to Italian immigrants' color status were never sustained or systematic and, therefore, Italians never occupied a social position "in between" "colored" and "white." Often failing to understand the distinctions between race and color, some scholars have assumed that challenges to a group's racial desirability as, say, Latins or Alpines, necessarily called into question their color status as whites. This was not the case. Italians, for instance, could be considered racially inferior "Dagoes" and privileged whites simultaneously. This point is vividly apparent when one compares their experiences with those of groups whose whiteness was either really in question (e.g., Mexican Americans) or entirely out of the question (e.g., African Americans and Asian Americans).

[...]

Rising [anti-immigrant racialism and restriction], however, never challenged Italians' whiteness in any consequential way. According to virtually all racialists at both the national and local Chicago levels, if Italians were a national peril, they were a "white peril" just the same. [...] Taken together, whether one spoke about physical stature, intellectual endowments, social customs, or other hereditary characteristics, one thing was certain to racialists: southern Italians (and sometimes northern ones as well) were racially inferior to the Nordic, "the white man par excellence." Interestingly, this racialist assault on Italians and other "new" immigrants stopped well short of questioning their color status as whites. It seems that most racialists—even as they did their best to emphasize racial difference—took the whiteness of "new" European immigrants for granted. As Henry Pratt Fairchild explained casually in his book Immigration, "the new immigration is made up from people of a very different racial stock, representing the Slavic and Mediterranean branches of the Caucasian race." Madison Grant included southern and eastern Europeans within the white/Caucasian category, even while questioning its overall usefulness: "The term 'Caucasian race' has ceased to have any meaning except where it is used, in the United States, to contrast white populations with Negroes or Indians or in the Old World with Mongols. It is, however, a convenient term to include the three European subspecies [Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean] when considered as divisions of one of the primary branches or species of mankind." Racialists, then, like many other Americans, made an important distinction between race and color—even if they failed to use these exact terms.

[...]

Scientific racialists, then, placed Italians (and other "new" European immigrants) in an ambiguous social position. After devoting years of research and writing to "demonstrating" the racial inferiority of southern and eastern Europeans, they still viewed these groups as white. The message seemed to be that "new" European immigrants were inferior—but not that inferior. For all their dangerous inadequacies, they still occupied a place within the "superior" color division of mankind, even if they were relegated to an "inferior" racial branch.

Thomas A. Guglielmo. White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2003.

Organized Crime and Upward Mobility

January 20, 2015

"A Family Business" was the real-life version of "The Godfather," the movie adaptation of which was released the same year. But [anthropologist Francis] Ianni's portrait was markedly different from the romanticized accounts of Mafia life that have subsequently dominated popular culture. There were no blood oaths in Ianni's account, or national commissions or dark conspiracies. There was no splashy gunplay. No one downed sambuca shots at Jilly's, on West Fifty-second Street, with Frank Sinatra. The Lupollos lived modestly. Ianni gives little evidence, in fact, that the four families had any grand criminal ambitions beyond the illicit operations they ran out of storefronts in Brooklyn. Instead, from Giuseppe's earliest days in Little Italy, the Lupollo clan was engaged in a quiet and determined push toward respectability.

By 1970, Ianni calculated, there were forty-two fourth-generation members of the Lupollo-Salemi-Alcamo-Tucci family—of which only four were involved in the family's crime businesses. The rest were firmly planted in the American upper middle class. A handful of the younger members of that generation were in private schools or in college. One was married to a judge's son, another to a dentist. One was completing a master's degree in psychology; another was a member of the English department at a liberal-arts college. There were several lawyers, a physician, and a stockbroker. Uncle Phil's son Basil was an accountant, who lived on an estate in the posh Old Westbury section of Long Island's North Shore. "His daughter rides and shows her own horses," Ianni wrote, "and his son has some reputation as an up-and-coming young yachtsman." Uncle Phil, meanwhile, lived in Manhattan, collected art, and frequented the opera. "The Lupollos love to tell of old Giuseppe's wife Annunziata visiting Phil's apartment," Ianni wrote. "Her comment on the lavish collection of paintings was 'manga nu Santa' ('not even one saint's picture')."

The moral of the "Godfather" movies was that the Corleone family, conceived in crime, could never escape it. "Just when I thought I was out," Michael Corleone says, "they pull me back in." The moral of "A Family Business" was the opposite: that for the Lupollos and the Tuccis and the Salemis and the Alcamos—and, by extension, many other families just like them—crime was the means by which a group of immigrants could transcend their humble origins. It was, as the sociologist James O'Kane put it, the "crooked ladder" of social mobility.

Six decades ago, Robert K. Merton argued that there was a series of ways in which Americans responded to the extraordinary cultural emphasis that their society placed on getting ahead. The most common was "conformity": accept the social goal (the American dream) and also accept the means by which it should be pursued (work hard and obey the law). The second strategy was "ritualism": accept the means (work hard and obey the law) but reject the goal. That's the approach of the Quakers or the Amish or of any other religious group that substitutes its own moral agenda for that of the broader society. There was also "retreatism" and "rebellion"—rejecting both the goal and the means. It was the fourth adaptation, however, that Merton found most interesting: "innovation." Many Americans—particularly those at the bottom of the heap—believed passionately in the promise of the American dream. They didn't want to bury themselves in ritualism or retreatism. But they couldn't conform: the kinds of institutions that would reward hard work and promote advancement were closed to them. So what did they do? They innovated: they found alternative ways of pursuing the American dream. They climbed the crooked ladder.

All three of the great waves of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European immigrants to America innovated. Irish gangsters dominated organized crime in the urban Northeast in the mid to late nineteenth century, followed by the Jewish gangsters—Meyer Lansky, Arnold Rothstein, and Dutch Schultz, among others. Then it was the Italians' turn. They were among the poorest and the least skilled of the immigrants of that era. Crime was one of the few options available for advancement. The point of the crooked-ladder argument and "A Family Business" was that criminal activity, under those circumstances, was not rebellion; it wasn't a rejection of legitimate society. It was an attempt to join in.

[...]

Ianni didn't romanticize what he saw. He didn't pretend that the crooked ladder was the principal means of economic mobility in America, or the most efficient. It was simply a fact of American life. He saw the pattern being repeated in New York City during the nineteen-seventies, as the city's demographics changed. [...] The newcomers, he predicted, would climb the ladder to respectability just as their predecessors had done. "It was toward the end of the Lupollo study that I became convinced that organized crime was a functional part of the American social system and should be viewed as one end of a continuum of business enterprises with legitimate business at the other end," Ianni wrote.

[...]

That's why the crooked ladder worked as well as it did. The granddaughter could end up riding horses because the law—whether from indifference, incompetence, or corruption—left her gangster grandfather alone.

The idea that, in the course of a few generations, the gangster can give way to an equestrian is perhaps the hardest part of the innovation argument to accept. We have become convinced of the opposite trajectory: the benign low-level drug dealer becomes the malignant distributor and then the brutal drug lord. [...] The crooked-ladder theorists looked at the Mafia's evolution during the course of the twentieth century, however, and reached the opposite conclusion: that, over time, the criminal vocation was inevitably domesticated.

Malcolm Gladwell. "The Crooked Ladder: The criminal's guide to upward mobility". The New Yorker | Urban Chronicles | August 11, 2014 Issue.

Geological Origins of Italy

December 11, 2014

Italy broke off of the French Alps 30 million years ago, emerged from the sea 5-10 million years ago when it collided with the Adriatic Plate, and might end up joining the Balkans in 50-70 million years.


"Italy's Mystery Mountains". PBS International, 2014.

Italian Food Voted Best in Two Surveys

November 17, 2014

One in the U.S. and the other in the U.K.

A new survey commissioned by Intrepid Travel has found that Italian is the favorite foreign cuisine for most Americans, with one in five (21%) saying it's their top choice.

The poll was conducted for the small group adventure travel specialist by YouGov and queried Americans about their food preferences and eating habits while traveling. The survey found Italian food is the most popular cuisine among 18-34-year-olds (21%), and 35-54-year-olds (21%), while the 55+ age group is more patriotic in their choice of meal and most likely to favor American cuisine (28%).

"Italian Cuisine Voted Americans' Favorite Foreign Food". Marketwired, Feb 08, 2012.

British people think Italian food is the best in Europe, which reflects the popularity of pizza and pasta as well as famous Italian gourmet products, according to latest Holiday Hypermarket's poll. British food was second-most popular, followed by French and Spanish cuisines.

[...]

The online poll of 2,068 people in the UK asked the question: "Which European country do you think has the best national cuisine?" Italy was the most popular with 30 per cent, followed by the UK with 22 per cent, France with 12 per cent, Spain with six per cent and Greece with three per cent.

Age also played a big role in people's preferences: respondents over 55 are more likely to think British food is the best (26 per cent of those 55+, vs. 14 per cent of those 18-34), while younger respondents prefer easy Italian food (41 per cent of those 18-34 vs. 22 per cent of those 55+). While both men and women prefer Italian food over British overall, more men chose hardy British food than women (25 per cent vs. 19 per cent), while Italian food is more popular with women than men (33 per cent vs. 27 per cent).

"Brit poll: Italian cuisine the best in Europe". eTurboNews, May 10, 2012.

Against Lynn's Doctrine

October 1, 2014

Here's another refutation of Richard Lynn's flawed study on Italian IQ:

Lynn's study uses regional differences in the performance of Italian secondary school children on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tests of educational achievement to assess regional IQ differences. However, data on Italian regional differences in educational achievement obtained in a much larger INVALSI study of 2,089,829 Italian schoolchildren provide unequivocal evidence that Lynn's educational achievement measure is not a valid index of IQ differences. More generally, the lengthy literature review in Lynn's article reveals uncritical acceptance of reported correlations between any putative index of IQ and socio-economic variables. Any measure of cognitive performance that is correlated with IQ is considered a measure of IQ, even if there is only a weak correlation. All correlations between such measures and socio-economic or public health variables are viewed as evidence of direct causal relationships. In all cases, causality is assumed to be in the direction that supports Lynn's doctrine when it would be equally valid to argue that socio-economic and public health differences cause differences in the performance of IQ tests. In addition to these fundamental logical and statistical errors the present report records numerous other data processing, methodological, and conceptual errors.

Robinson et al. "The case against Lynn's doctrine that population IQ determines levels of socio-economic development and public health status". J Pub Ment Health, 2011.

Overestimated Admixture in Brisighelli (2012)

September 8, 2014

This study tries to quantify individual ancestry in Italians by using a small panel of autosomal markers that are known to produce errors and overestimate admixture compared with using the full SNP data set, and as a result it comes up with estimates of Sub-Saharan African admixture in Italy and elsewhere in Europe that are much higher than in any other study:

A panel of 52 AIMs was genotyped in 435 Italian individuals in order to estimate the proportion of ancestry from a three-way differentiation: sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Asia. Structure analyses allowed us to infer membership proportions in population samples, and these proportions can be graphically displayed, as in Figure 2. This analysis indicated that Italians have a basal proportion of sub-Saharan ancestry that is higher (9.2%, on average) than other central or northern European populations (1.5%, on average). The amount of African ancestry in Italians is however more comparable to (but slightly higher than) the average in other Mediterranean countries (7.1%).

The authors go on to say that Sub-Saharan African admixture in Italy is also evident in uniparental markers, but they should've been suspicious of their high AIM-based estimate when they found only 1.2% mtDNA haplogroup L and no A, B or E(xE3b) Y-DNA, which leads to an admixture estimate (0.6%) that's 15 times lower.

They also should've been puzzled by other bizarre results in their structure analysis, like African admixture appearing higher in Northern and Central Italy than in Southern Italy, with an equally high amount in Britain and Japan, and a very high Asian component in Central and Southern Italians that other Europeans don't have:

52 AIMs

Indeed, when we look at many of the same and similar populations tested using 291,184 SNPs in Lazaridis et al. (2014), we can see that the pattern is totally different and fits much better with the uniparental data and known reality. Italians only have a drop (<1%) of African admixture, which is highest in the south, while the British and Japanese don't have any at all, and Asian admixture is expectedly higher in Northern and Eastern Europe than it is in Southern Europe:

291,184 SNPs

These two very different results highlight the importance of using all genome-wide data when estimating individual ancestry and admixture proportions.

---------------
Brisighelli et al. "Uniparental Markers of Contemporary Italian Population Reveals Details on Its Pre-Roman Heritage". PLoS One, 2012.

Mediterranean Sea as Genetic Barrier

June 16, 2014

This new study confirms that the Mediterranean Sea has acted as a strong barrier to gene flow through geographic isolation following initial settlements. Samples from (Northern) Italy, Tuscany, Sicily and Sardinia are closest to other Southern Europeans from Iberia, the Balkans and Greece, who are in turn closest to the Neolithic migrants that spread farming throughout Europe, represented here by the Cappadocian sample from Anatolia. But there hasn't been any significant admixture from the Middle East or North Africa into Southern Europe since then.

Genes Mirror Geography Across the Mediterranean Basin


We first used principal components analysis (PCA) to visualize the genotypic distances between studied populations. Populations on the southern and northern coasts of the Mediterranean appear to be separated by the geographic barrier of the Mediterranean Sea. The role of the Mediterranean Sea as a barrier for gene flow among populations was also supported by our analysis using the BARRIER software, which implements Monmonier's maximum difference algorithm. In accordance with this finding...the PCA distribution of the populations closely resembles the geographic map of the countries circling the Mediterranean Sea. On this PCA "map" of populations, the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea is appropriately occupied by the Palestinians and the Lebanese Druze. Yemenites and Bedouins branch out from the Mediterranean populations and are closer to the populations of the Near East.

[...]

Seljuk Turks settled in Anatolia in the 12th century AD; however, the Anatolian Cappadocians we included in this study belong to the population that have kept the religion and the language of the pre-Seljuk Cappadocians and, therefore, most likely carry the genetic makeup of the ancient Anatolians. The only important gene flows from Near East to Europe must have occurred in prehistoric times and, as genetic evidence suggests, the most prominent migrations should have occurred during the Neolithic.

[...]

Although the Southeastern Mediterranean islands seem to have acted as a bridge from Anatolia to Southern Europe, the relatively small degree of gene flow between the African and the European coasts shows that the Mediterranean Sea also had a barrier function as also suggested with studies of mtDNA polymorphisms. Thus, the Mediterranean seems to have facilitated the migrations of Neolithic farmers along its Southern European coast but it mostly acted as an isolating factor between its European and African coasts.




Paschou et al. "Maritime route of colonization of Europe". PNAS, 2014.

Italian Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews

March 8, 2014

Genetic similarities between Italians and Ashkenazi Jews are due to the fact that about half of Jews' ancestry is European, a lot of which came from Italy when diaspora males migrated to Rome and found wives among local women who then converted to Judaism. The same process happened again to a lesser degree in other parts of Europe as Jews migrated further north, west and then east, but according to genome-wide autosomal DNA, their highest European admixture is Italian.

Overall, it seems that at least 80% of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is due to the assimilation of mtDNAs indigenous to Europe, most likely through conversion. The phylogenetic nesting patterns suggest that the most frequent of the Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages were assimilated in Western Europe, ~2 ka or slightly earlier. Some in particular, including N1b2, M1a1b, K1a9 and perhaps even the major K1a1b1, point to a north Mediterranean source. It seems likely that the major founders were the result of the earliest and presumably most profound wave of founder effects, from the Mediterranean northwards into central Europe, and that most of the minor founders were assimilated in west/central Europe within the last 1,500 years. The sharing of rarer lineages with Eastern European populations may indicate further assimilation in some cases, but can often be explained by exchange via intermarriage in the reverse direction.

The Ashkenazim therefore resemble Jewish communities in Eastern Africa and India, and possibly also others across the Near East, Caucasus and Central Asia, which also carry a substantial fraction of maternal lineages from their 'host' communities. Despite widely differing interpretations of autosomal data, these results in fact fit well with genome-wide studies, which imply a significant European component, with particularly close relationships to Italians. As might be expected from the autosomal picture, Y-chromosome studies generally show the opposite trend to mtDNA (with a predominantly Near Eastern source) with the exception of the large fraction of European ancestry seen in Ashkenazi Levites.

Evidence for haplotype sharing with non-Ashkenazi Jews for each of the three main haplogroup K founders may imply a partial common ancestry in Mediterranean Europe for Ashkenazi and Spanish-exile Sephardic Jews, but may also, at least in part, be due to subsequent gene flow, especially into Bulgaria and Turkey, both of which witnessed substantial immigration from Ashkenazi communities in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Gene flow could have been substantial in some cases—ongoing intermarriage is likely when these communities began living in closer proximity after the Spanish exile. A partial common ancestry for all European Jews—both Ashkenazi and Sephardic—is again strongly supported by the autosomal results.

Jewish communities were already spread across the Graeco-Roman and Persian world >2,000 years ago. It is thought that a substantial Jewish community was present in Rome from at least the mid-second century BCE, maintaining links to Jerusalem and numbering 30,000-50,000 by the first half of the first century CE. By the end of the first millennium CE, Ashkenazi communities were historically visible along the Rhine valley in Germany. After the wave of expulsions in Western Europe during the fifteenth century, they began to disperse once more, into Eastern Europe.

These analyses suggest that the first major wave of assimilation probably took place in Mediterranean Europe, most likely in the Italian peninsula ~2 ka, with substantial further assimilation of minor founders in west/central Europe. There is less evidence for assimilation in Eastern Europe, and almost none for a source in the North Caucasus/Chuvashia, as would be predicted by the Khazar hypothesis—rather, the results show strong genetic continuities between west and east European Ashkenazi communities, albeit with gradual clines of frequency of founders between east and west.

Costa et al. "A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages". Nature Communications, 2013.

Admixture between previously diverged populations yields patterns of genetic variation that can aid in understanding migrations and natural selection. An understanding of individual admixture (IA) is also important when conducting association studies in admixed populations. However, genetic drift, in combination with shallow allele frequency differences between ancestral populations, can make admixture estimation by the usual methods challenging. We have, therefore, developed a simple but robust method for ancestry estimation using a linear model to estimate allele frequencies in the admixed individual or sample as a function of ancestral allele frequencies. The model works well because it allows for random fluctuation in the observed allele frequencies from the expected frequencies based on the admixture estimation. We present results involving 3,366 Ashkenazi Jews (AJ) who are part of the Kaiser Permanente Genetic Epidemiology Research on Adult Health and Aging (GERA) cohort and genotyped at 674,000 SNPs, and compare them to the results of identical analyses for 2,768 GERA African Americans (AA). For the analysis of the AJ, we included surrogate Middle Eastern, Italian, French, Russian, and Caucasus subgroups to represent the ancestral populations. For the African Americans, we used surrogate Africans and Northern Europeans as ancestors. For the AJ, we estimated mean ancestral proportions of 0.380, 0.305, 0.113, 0.041 and 0.148 for Middle Eastern, Italian, French, Russian and Caucasus ancestry, respectively. For the African Americans, we obtained estimated means of 0.745 and 0.248 for African and European ancestry, respectively. We also noted considerably less variation in the individual admixture proportions for the AJ (s.d. = .02 to .05) compared to the AA (s.d.= .15), consistent with an older age of admixture for the former. From the linear model regression analysis on the entire population, we also obtain estimates of goodness of fit by r2. For the analysis of AJ, the r2 was 0.977; for the analysis of the AA, the r2 was 0.994, suggesting that genetic drift has played a more prominent role in determining the AJ allele frequencies. This was confirmed by examination of the distribution of differences for the observed versus predicted allele frequencies. As compared to the African Americans, the AJ differences were significantly larger, and presented some outliers which may have been the target of selection (e.g. in the HLA region on chromosome 6p).

Banda et al. "Admixture Estimation in a Founder Population". Am Soc Hum Genet, 2013.

Two major differences among the populations in this study were the high degree of European admixture (30%-60%) among the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Italian, and Syrian Jews and the genetic proximity of these populations to each other compared to their proximity to Iranian and Iraqi Jews. This time of a split between Middle Eastern Iraqi and Iranian Jews and European/Syrian Jews, calculated by simulation and comparison of length distributions of IBD segments, is 100–150 generations, compatible with a historical divide that is reported to have occurred more than 2500 years ago. The Middle Eastern populations were formed by Jews in the Babylonian and Persian empires who are thought to have remained geographically continuous in those locales. In contrast, the other Jewish populations were formed more recently from Jews who migrated or were expelled from Palestine and from individuals who were converted to Judaism during Hellenic-Hasmonean times, when proselytism was a common Jewish practice. During Greco-Roman times, recorded mass conversions led to 6 million people practicing Judaism in Roman times or up to 10% of the population of the Roman Empire. Thus, the genetic proximity of these European/Syrian Jewish populations, including Ashkenazi Jews, to each other and to French, Northern Italian, and Sardinian populations favors the idea of non-Semitic Mediterranean ancestry in the formation of the European/Syrian Jewish groups and is incompatible with theories that Ashkenazi Jews are for the most part the direct lineal descendants of converted Khazars or Slavs. The genetic proximity of Ashkenazi Jews to southern European populations has been observed in several other recent studies.

Atzmon et al. "Abraham's Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry". Am J Hum Genet, 2010.

Some Perspective on Italian IQ

July 15, 2013

A new paper tries to evaluate the evidence in the recent debate about Italian IQ. The author has a little too much faith in Richard Lynn and the validity of his data, but still challenges his simplistic genetic explanations for north-south disparities, and urges caution when interpreting correlations between IQ and other variables.

The present study was intended to provide perspective, albeit less than unequivocal, on the research of Lynn (2010) who reported higher IQs in the northern than southern Italian regions. He attributes this to northern Italians having a greater genetic similarity to middle Europeans and southern Italians to Mediterranean people. Higher regional IQ was associated with biological variables more characteristic of middle European than Mediterranean populations (cephalic index, eye color, hair color, multiple sclerosis rates, schizophrenia rates). It was maintained, however, that very confident and definitive inferences regarding genetic regional differences in IQ are not warranted. Social conceptualized variables also correlated significantly with IQ so as to suggest the importance of nutrition and economic developmental status more generally.

[...]

One should also bear in mind that the correlations are ecological correlations and have the limitations associated with such. Prince (1998) succinctly described three problems with ecological correlations. One problem, the "ecological fallacy," is that people who are high or low in one variable are not necessarily the same people who are high or low on the other variable. In the present study the people in a region who are high in cephalic index are not necessarily the same people who are high in IQ. The second problem is that a third variable may be responsible for the correlation between the other two. In the present study, temperature, precipitation, constituents of drinking water, constituents of soil, health, genetic predisposition to medical disorder, nutrition, and medical care are some of the variables that could conceivably influence the correlation of IQ with schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The third problem is that cause and effect cannot be determined.

4. Discussion


It is apparent that regions that have at least some biological characteristics more common in middle European than Mediterranean populations (higher cephalic index, lighter eye color and hair, and higher rates of multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia) tend to have higher IQs. This could be viewed consistent with Lynn's (2010) assertion of a genetically based explanation of north-south IQ differences. Great caution, however, is urged regarding such inferences. Since these are ecological correlations, the persons high or low in these biological variables may not be the same persons in that region high or low in IQ. Because some characteristics are different does not mean that all characteristics are different. East Asians have different facial features than Europeans and Africans. These differences, however, may be only remotely related or not related at all to IQ differences. Also, there are notable exceptions to generalizations about IQ and coloration. Most East Asians and Jewish persons are darker than Scandinavians and yet have higher mean IQs. Furthermore, social variables could account, at least in part, for the north-south IQ differences. Nevertheless, examination and discussion of the biological variable findings are warranted.

[...]

The social correlations with IQ and latitude were also substantial and could be viewed as indicating social explanations of the north-south IQ differences. As reasoned above, the massive illiteracy of the south (and even in the north to a lesser extent) could not be explained mainly by genetically determined intelligence. The positive correlation between IQ and literacy suggests that the lower developmental stature of the southern region contributes to the lower IQ. Such an interpretation is also suggested by, as hypothesized, the negative correlation between IQ and percentage increase in stature and negative correlation between income and latitude. This correlation also shows that those regions with the greatest history of malnutrition have lower IQs. As pointed out by Lynn (1990), the secular increase in IQ and stature parallel each other and both seem to be a function of improved nutrition.

Donald I. Templer. "Biological correlates of northern-southern Italy differences in IQ". Intelligence, 2012.