Height of Northern Europeans and Italians in the U.S.

Stature of Massachusetts children of North European and Italian ancestry.

[. . .] The subjects were 237 males and 190 females in attendance at the public schools of Beverly and Revere (two small cities in the vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts) during the years 1923 to 1934. They represented two racial groups. One hundred and fifty-seven of the males and 124 of the females were of North European ancestry. The remaining eighty males and sixty-six females were of Italian stock.

Two methods had been used to determine the racial stock of the subjects. Initially the Growth Study staff had employed geographical and sociological criteria. Here, the main basis of classification had been the birth-place of the parents, though such items as the language spoken in the home and the family name had also been considered. North European subjects included ‘descendants from the Old American stock together with more recent arrivals from the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States, as well as English speaking Canadians and Newfoundlanders.' Italian subjects, as determined by this approach, were children of parents born in Italy, children from Italian speaking homes, and children whose family names were Italian and whose general physical appearance did not contradict Italian descent.

It had been decided later to differentiate racial groups in a strictly anthropological manner. Criteria involving nationality, language, and culture had here been abandoned. Classification was made solely in terms of combinations for physical items such as skin pigmentation, facial features, eye and hair color, form of hair, and type of build. The disagreements for the two methods were found not to involve more than 4% of the Growth Study cases. [. . .]

1. The mean stature for males of North European descent exceeds that for males of Italian descent over the entire period from 7 to 17 years. In amount, the difference is 4.2 cm. at 7 years, 4.6 cm.. at 10 pears, 4.7 cm. at 13 years, and 4.5 cm. at 17 years. On the whole, during the decade of growth under study the North European males are taller than the Italian males by 4.6 cm., or 1.8 inches. [. . .]

Gebhart, in 1924, published stature means for children of Italian stock living in “a congested Italian district in New York City.” His study was made in connection with a ‘practical health program’ conducted at the Mulberry .Health Center. [. . .]

Stature means for children of North European stock in attendance at private schools in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California were published in 1931 by Gray and Ayres. The subjects of this particular racial grouping were all children of parents born in the United States. Two or three of the grandparents of each child were born in the United States, while the remaining one or two grandparents were born in Canada or in Northwest Europe (Scandinavia, Netherlands, British Isles, France or Germany). [. . .]

During the age interval common to the studies of Gebhart and of Gray and Ayres, the mean stature for males of North European descent in attendance at private schools exceeds that for Italian males from a congested urban district by 14.8 cm., or 5.8 inches. This amount of difference is striking. In the opinion of the writer, it constitutes a forceful challenge to intensive investigation of the question, What specific constellations of factors relating to racial descent and socioeconomic status are sufficiently potent to produce such wide divergence in the mean stature of children of school age living in the United States.

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