September 6, 2009

What's the Matter with Rhode Island?

It's not a very important state, but I notice that Rhode Island, in the heart of southern New England, seems to be slowly drifting toward the bottom of state-by-state statistics, turning into the West Virginia of Blue State America. And yet, unlike the Mountain State, the Ocean State has seemingly favorable topography: flat land, a remarkable number of miles of coastline per square mile (that's why Robber Barons built their "cottages" in Rhode Island), and weather, that while bad, is less bad than Massachusetts'. Culturally, Rhode Island has an Ivy League university and four centuries of architecture.

Is it just that everybody ambitious in Rhode Island heads to New York or Boston? Or is something else going on?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

40 comments:

Stopped Clock said...

Well, it's pretty much dominated by Providence, which isn't such a great city despite being still over 50 percent white. My guess is that if you took any medium sized city and made a state out of it it wouldn't look so great either. Also Im sure a lot of people moved out during the times when shoe factories, etc, were closing.

Anonymous said...

Look at business tax climate, industrial energy costs, and unionization levels. Compare Rhode Island on any of those scores to a state like Utah or Wyoming.

Anonymous said...

I doubt there is a causal relationship, but Rhode Island recently (inadvertently) legalized prostitution.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125210953971287935.html

Finally I don't have to go all the way to Nevada! :)

ironrailsironweights said...

While Rhode Island's next door neighbor Connecticut is a more prosperous state that scores considerably higher in most associated statistics, the parts of Connecticut which are closest to Rhode Island have long been the relatively more backward section of that state (though that may be changing with the huge Indian casinos). Connecticut east of the Connecticut River is a notch below the western part. This theme of a laggard section of an otherwise prosperous state also may be true to some extent with respect to the parts of Massachusetts closer to Rhode Island, such as Fall River and New Bedford. Rhode Island therefore might be seen as the epicenter of a pocket of relatively low prosperity in southern New England that spills over its borders into the neighboring states.

Ambitious Rhode Islanders probably don't pack up and move to Boston in any great numbers because from most parts of the state you can commute there.

Lastly, in a discussion at another forum (maybe Audacious Epigone or Inductivist, I don't remember which) about why white kids in Hawaii perform so poorly on nationwide achievement tests, one idea was that many Hawaiian whites are of Portuguese descent, an ethnic group that has lagged most other white groups in many respects. You can figure out what is one of Rhode Island's biggest (perhaps the biggest) ethnic groups.

Peter

Anonymous said...

It's got the wrong kind of whites.

Texan said...

In what areas is Rhode Island struggling? In the most recent statistics I could find, it's 16th in the country in per capita income, well ahead of a number of blue states.

Texan said...

Crime rate is relatively low, too.

How about letting us know what you're talking about, Steve?

Ian said...

I was in Providence for the first time last week. There was much I liked about it. But I was also surprised at the contrast between all the colonial-style buildings (including ones built recently) and the large number of unpleasant, somewhat dangerous black and hispanics that I noticed in the downtown and periphery. I was also told that Providence has a high Mafia concentration, being between NYC and Boston as it is. And then there are the felonious shenanigans of former mayor Buddy Cianci ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Cianci ) ...

robert61 said...

ironrailsetc mentions the Portuguese population. Many are Cape Verdeans, most of whom probably identify as white.

According to RI census figures, self-identified Cape Verdeans constitute 1.5% of the population. However, the 8.7% who identify as Portuguese are probably mostly Cape Verdeans, too, with a smaller admixture of white Azoreans and mainland Portuguese. There is a large population of cappuccino-colored working class people on Cape Cod who self-identify as Portuguese but who are obviously Cape Verdean by appearance. Cape Verde was, after all, a Portuguese colony until the 1970s.

As far as I know, this population is still growing fairly fast. Last time I was on the lower Cape (2005?), I heard Portuguese-language radio out of New Bedford, which I don't remember hearing as a kid in the 70s and 80s.

Anonymous said...

I've read that it is the most Catholic state due to the high concentration of Italians. No Protestant work ethic?

KingM said...

I used to live in Rhode Island from 2000-2004, although I lived in Newport, not Providence.

It had a lot of working class people and almost all the white people I knew were either French Canadian, Portuguese, Italian, or Irish, even in the engineering field where I worked.

The Portuguese I knew were Portuguese, not Brazilian or Cape Verdean, including one really bright software engineer at a large defense contractor and another software guy who only spoke a smattering of Portuguese.

The state has a lot going for it and Newport is the most beautiful town in America, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

What I noticed about Rhode Island was that the locals all drive big ass cars. If they have money, they drive Lincolns, if they are getting by, they drive a Mercury Marquis, and if they are poor, they are driving a Crown Vic.

Who? I don't know, but they tend to have a coloration I associate with the Mediterranean, black hair, olive complexion, and lots of gold chains and pinky rings. All the politicians sound like the guys on the Sopranos.

Based on this comprehensive study, I wonder if the commenters who point to "the wrong kind of whites" may be on to something.

Anonymous said...

I used to be friends with an Italian guy from Providence, and he said RI is what happens when you get too many of his people in one place.

Truth said...

"the 8.7% who identify as Portuguese are probably mostly Cape Verdeans, too..."

No Sport, they're actually
White Folks.

Anonymous said...

robert61 said...
“ironrailsetc mentions the Portuguese population. Many are Cape Verdeans, most of whom probably identify as white.”

Cape Verdeans are a separate population. Most of them do not identify as white. Most Cape Verdean Americans probably see themselves as black people.

robert61 said...
“According to RI census figures, self-identified Cape Verdeans constitute 1.5% of the population. However, the 8.7% who identify as Portuguese are probably mostly Cape Verdeans, too, with a smaller admixture of white Azoreans and mainland Portuguese. There is a large population of cappuccino-colored working class people on Cape Cod who self-identify as Portuguese but who are obviously Cape Verdean by appearance. Cape Verde was, after all, a Portuguese colony until the 1970s.”

According to the U.S. census, Rhode Island’s Cape Verdean population was around 7,000 people in 2000. There are a few who identify as Portuguese, and many of those are probably of predominant Portuguese appearance, but the vast majority of Cape Verdean Americans in New England see themselves as Cape Verdean or simply black people.

Additionally, on what basis do you conclude that Rhode Island’s Portuguese population is mostly Cape Verdean? We no longer live in the first half of the 20th century when Cape Verde was a part of Portugal, and these people haven’t seen themselves as Portuguese in a very long time.

RAZ said...

Was wondering much the same driving back yesterday after taking my daughter to her senior year at Brown.

Other than the physical beauty by the water, and the charming old construction on the eastern side of Providence where Brown (and RISD) are located, I've always gotten an old, tired, lower middle class vibe in RI. Don't claim to be an expert, but know it some from my years living nearby in Boston and more recent visits with my daughter.

The state is more dependent on hard hit manufacturing than its neighbors, and also has a more corrupt image.

Once you get somewhat north or east of Providence you're more in the Boston orbit and the feeling is different. Not that you can go far north or east before you're in MA anyway.

When I lived in Boston I had a room mate originally from Providence (who wasn't going to move back after college). His parents were Italian and French-Canadian, probably not uncommon for those not wholly Italian. Just by general observation, the younger people I see around Prov now (who don't look like Brown or RISD students) are often darker - Black, Hispanic or maybe a Cape Verdean background.

I was struck while driving yesterday just southwest of Providence on 95 when I saw a developer's sign advertising new home construction from about $225K. It won't impress someone from Houston or Topeka, but it's pretty low for anywhere in the BosWash corridor. So the relatively depressed condition does have benefits to someone who wants a middle class lifestyle on what would not buy that lifestyle elsewhere.

ironrailsironweights said...

Cape Verdeans are a separate population. Most of them do not identify as white. Most Cape Verdean Americans probably see themselves as black people.

Though it's been over a decade and attitudes may have changed, I used to live in Connecticut and knew a number of Cape Verdeans. For the most part, they thought of themselves as a distinct group, separate from the larger black population. Most actually considered themselves closer to (white) Portuguese than to blacks. And they did not like being mistaken for Puerto Rican, a not-uncommon occurrence.

Peter

Anonymous said...

As the Cape Verdean friend of a friend who, when introduced to me, said he was Portuguese too, was told, no, I'm Portuguese, you're African. And this self-serving identity that may colonial blacks fall back on when it's helpful to be something other than black is what colors the discussion of what it means to be Portuguese.

Anon-the "Portuguese" immigration to Metro Boston (and Providence) over the past 25 years has been mostly Cape Verdean. Most of the violence in the city over the past 5-7 years has essentially been old gang feuds from the Cape Verde Islands. As a group, they bring nothing to the table socially or economically, being African and not European in any way. All you need to know about the identity of Cape Verdeans is to see where the settle in metro Boston: Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, Brockton, Randolph; all predominantly black areas.

There is also a smattering of Angolan "Portuguese" in greater Boston. There's also a huge population of Brazilians here, and like the population of most former Portuguese colonies, they range from blue-eyed white to coal black. As my grandfather used to say, it's the Portuguese who gave the world the mulatto. Hence the lagging of the "Portuguese" population in Hawaii.

My own family hails from the Azores, which for centuries was the Atlantic way station for the various other European powers. This probably explains why most of the successful Portuguese I know in Massachusetts are of Azorean extraction.

And Peter, leave us out of the alleged problems with Rhode Island. Just like Massachusetts, the Italians and Irish are the 2 dominant ethnicities there, with the attending crooked politics. Most people also don't realize that the New England Mob, for most of the last century, was NOT run out of Boston, but out of Providence by the Patriarca crew.

Rhode Island's 2 biggest problems are taxes (higher tax burden than Taxachusetts) and the fact that there were never enough swamp Yankees to offset the idiocies of the ethnic Democrats.

I'll leave you whith the fact that a very prosperous and long-lived group (actually, longest lived in the world) are those in Macau, former Portuguese colony in China. As is regularly pointed out at I-Steve, who/whom one breeds with is destiny.

Brutus

albertosaurus said...

People attribute all sorts of vices to government programs. Often they call government workers lazy and/or stupid. Maybe so, but there is a simpler explanation - failure to merger.

If RI is under performing as you say it should just be taken over by some better performing nearby state. This won't happen of course but if it did what would be the result? There would be fewer total government workers and greater efficiency. Services would be likely to improve and costs would go down.

I keep hearing that the Constitution is a "living document". How about living state boundaries?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it obvious? The Griffin family is dragging down the statistics.

Seriously, the Portuguese do end up as the butt of a lot of jokes on Family Guy (which is set in Rhode Island). Of course, so does everyone else, but the Portuguese in particular seem to be portrayed as not-very-desirable outsiders that it's kind of OK to discriminate against.

Anonymous said...

The largest white group in RI is Portuguese.

Anonymous said...

"I'll leave you whith the fact that a very prosperous and long-lived group (actually, longest lived in the world) are those in Macau, former Portuguese colony in China."

Are there any Portuguese people left in that former colony?

So these prosperous and long lived people are a credit to the Chinese.

robert61 said...

I don't know that many of the "Portuguese" of RI are Cape Verdeans. It's a conjecture based on combining a fact with an observation:

1) The fact is that the ethnicities in the census are self-reported.

2) The observation is that people of Cape Verdean extraction on Cape Cod, where I spent summers as a child and young adult, identified themselves as "Portuguese". I never knew they were Cape Verdean until an Azorean friend explained the finer points of Portuguese ethnicity to me.

I don't know whether recent Cape Verdean immigrants consider themselves Portuguese or not. It wouldn't surprise me if they did, since most are clearly of mixed race. Never mind the vagaries of statehood; they are partly ethnically Portuguese. And much of the Cape's "Portuguese" population has been in the US since the days of Ishmael and Queequeg.

Does any of this apply to RI? I dunno, but it's a decent hypothesis to start with.

Ronduck said...

Albertosaurus, all of New England should be merged into a single state. Right now NE gets twelve senators, when those six states really should get two.

Anonymous said...

Even before the "Carnation Revolution" of 1974, the right-wing authoritarian Estado Novo of Salazar had conditioned Portuguese to think of their country as primarily an African one, over and above being European one, so central to national survival had it come to see the maintenance of the colonial empire in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, etc.

Jack said...

Rhode Island does seem to be dominated by Irish and Italians, but to a large extent, Mass, Conn, NJ are as well. These states, like RI, have their corruption issues; however, they do very well on education measures, unlike RI.

I was in southern Rhode Island during the fall a couple years ago. It was absolutely beautiful. Leaves colored, nice cute houses. I get why the state does a bit worse than CT and MA on education (CT includes suburbs of NYC, MA includes the Boston area and its colleges) but why is it SO bad? That really is the question.

David said...

Heard the homosexuals are strong up there in government, and you see a lot of men holding hands. A "Heather Has Two Mommies/Daddies" PC vibe.

Anonymous said...

A little off-topic, but Macau is already extinct:


List of countries and territories by fertility rate
en.wikipedia.org

Macau, UN, 2000-2005: 0.84
Macau, UN, 2005-2010: 0.91 [#195 of 195]

Macau, CIA, 2000: 1.30
Macau, CIA, 2008: 0.90 [#223 of 223]


And the Portuguese are not that all far behind them:


Portugal, UN, 2000-2005: 1.45
Portugal, UN, 2005-2010: 1.46 [#164 of 195]

Portugal, CIA, 2000: 1.47
Portugal, CIA, 2008: 1.49 [#188 of 223]


The largest white group in RI is Portuguese.

Surprise, surprise, surprise:


Trends in Characteristics of Births by State: United States, 1990, 1995, and 2000–2002
May 10, 2004
cdc.gov

Page 61, Table 4, Total fertility rates and birth rates by age, race, and Hispanic origin of mother, Rhode Island

2000 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.496
2001 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.503
2002 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.4885

Births: Final Data for 2000
February 12, 2002
cdc.gov

Page 42, Table 12, Live births by Hispanic origin of mother and by race for mothers of non-Hispanic origin, Rhode Island

2000 Live Births, Hispanic: 2,103
2000 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Black: 1,005
2000 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,825
2000 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Unknown: 563
2000 Live Births, Race Not Stated: 1,009
2000 Live Births, TOTAL: 12,505

Births: Final Data for 2001
December 18, 2002
cdc.gov

Page 43, Table 12, Live births by Hispanic origin of mother and by race for mothers of non-Hispanic origin, Rhode Island

2001 Live Births, Hispanic: 2,196
2001 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Black: 994
2001 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,676
2001 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Unknown: 591
2001 Live Births, Race Not Stated: 1,256
2001 Live Births, TOTAL: 12,713

Births: Final Data for 2002
December 17, 2003
cdc.gov

Page 48, Table 12, Live births by Hispanic origin of mother and by race for mothers of non-Hispanic origin, Rhode Island

2002 Live Births, Hispanic: 2,328
2002 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Black: 1,027
2002 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,356
2002 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Unknown: 668
2002 Live Births, Race Not Stated: 1,515
2002 Live Births, TOTAL: 12,894

Births: Final Data for 2006
January 7, 2009
cdc.gov

Page 51, Table 13, Live births by Hispanic origin of mother and by race for mothers of non-Hispanic origin, Rhode Island

2006 Live Births, Hispanic: 2,557
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Black: 992
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 6,117
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Unknown: 651
2006 Live Births, Race Not Stated: 2,055
2006 Live Births, TOTAL: 12,372


The number of Non-Hispanic White births collapsed in Rhode Island, from 7,356 in 2002, to 6,117 in 2006, so if there isn't something funny going on with "Non-Hispanic Unknown" and "Race Not Stated", then I'd guess that the Non-Hispanic White total fertility rate in Rhode Island plunged from 1.496 to below 1.250:


2000 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,825
2000 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.488
2001 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,676
2001 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.503
2002 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 7,356
2002 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: 1.496
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 6,117
2006 TFR, Non-Hispanic White: ??? less than 1.250 ???


Bottom line being that the younger readers at iSteve will live to see the day when Rhode Island Portuguese gangsterism is nothing more than an archaeological artifact - and, to the extent that it fails to be chronicled in the literature, not even a memory.

Anonymous said...

As far as being chronicled in the literature [or at least the celluloid], earlier this year, someone here at iSteve pointed out the role of the Cape Verdeans in the New Bedford rape which got Jodie Foster her first her first Best Actress Oscar.

Also, The Departed briefly touched on the relationship between the Boston Irish Mob and the Rhode Island Sicilian [Portuguese?] Mob.

And Showtime's recently cancelled Brotherhood had a similar theme about the Providence Irish Mob and their Sicilian [Portuguese?] overlords.

Anonymous said...

"I've always gotten an old, tired, lower middle class vibe in RI"

Yes. There's a very grim aspect behind the quaint towns and handsome architechture. Economic growth and urban renewal since the late 1980s has added a lot of polish, but you still have a post-industrial society based on low skill industries like jewelry and textiles with a veneer of WASP gentility. And the low end is really, really low without even getting into the question of minorities.

RI has a lot of the negatives and some of the positives of MA and CT, but it also has quirky dynamics of its own since the 17th century. Southern RI began as a plantation society--not unlike the Chesapeake--but that didn't work. In the 19th century, rural WASPs and the propertied dominated politics and this lasted into the early 20th century. Machine politics with people like Nelson Aldrich kept down the proles until the Irish-dominated Democrats took over in the 1920s. Italians, who controlled the New England mob from Providence, brought a culture straight out of Calabria. Ethnic tribalism persists, along with Louisiana levels of corruption. Note the famous Buddy Cianci who beat a romantic rival with a log while the chief of police held him down. WASPS like John Chafee and Claiborne Pell kept getting re-elected because they were considered too rich to steal.

It's a weird place. A black acquaintance who was there briefly in the 1980s said it was not like being in America, but his reference points were Alabama and California so go figure.

Anonymous said...

This might help:

Rhode Islanders Are The Biggest Pot Heads In America

http://hailmaryjane.com/rhode-islanders-are-the-biggest-pot-heads-in-america/

James Kabala said...

Masachusetts native, longtime (for education-related reasons) Rhode Island resident here. My observations:

1. "The largest white group in RI is Portuguese."

This is inaccurate. As of the 2000Census (I looked it up) it was 14.1% Italian, 13.7% Irish, 8.9% English, 8.1% French*, and only 6.5% Portuguese. And many of that 6.5% probably are Cape Verdean.

* My source only gives the top 5; it is possible that "French" and "French Canadian" were listed separately. If so, they would certainly be more than the English and probably not too far behind the Irish.

2. As far as I know the Rhode Island mob did not have a strong Portuguese element, but I am not an expert on the subject. They were open to other ethnicities, though; a well-known killer of recent years had the aristocratic Yankee surname Tillinghast.

3. As far as I know, but I could be a naive non-native, the mob proper is no longer very strong. The political culture is still full of corruption, but it tends toward smaller-scale scandals such as taking bribes from CVS. Cianci's scandals also were not usually tied directly to the mob. The aforementioned Gerald Tillinghast went to prison in 1978.

4. I know this type of anecdotal comment is the bane of isteve readers, but the Portuguese-Americans I have known seemed no worse than average on the whole and included many who were highly intelligent.

5. "My guess is that if you took any medium sized city and made a state out of it it wouldn't look so great either."

Yes, I can only imagine what the State of Hartford or the State of Springfield would be like. I believe that, despite the mob history, Providence probably has a lower crime rate than those cities, but I don't know that for a fact.

6. It's interesting that Rhode Island and New Jersey were known as being among the most corrupt states since long before the mafia came, even though I imagine the ethnic profiles of their residents back then were not much different from those in such places as (for example) the always-pretty-clean Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont trio. Sometimes local cultures, good or bad, do develop for hard-to-understand reasons.

7. I do enjoy living here generally.

Anonymous said...

Rhode Island is the most heavily Italian state. It also has a lot of Portuguese people, some of whom are mixed race, and heavy immigration from the Dominican Republic.

Anonymous said...

By the way - I didn't explicitly point this out in my post above, but if you look at the most recent numbers:

2006 Live Births, Hispanic: 2,557
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Black: 992
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic White: 6,117
2006 Live Births, Non-Hispanic Unknown: 651
2006 Live Births, Race Not Stated: 2,055
2006 Live Births, TOTAL: 12,372

Then you realize that whites now provide only

6,117 / 12,372 = 49.44%

of the births in the state.

I.e. if there is not something fishy going on with "Non-Hispanic Unknown" and "Race Not Stated", then Rhode Island is now effectively NAM.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if someone like La Griffe du Lion would care to run a least squares/Legendre regression to see how local & state government corruption varies as a function of the WASP proportion of society [and/or as a function of the age distribution of the WASP proportion of society].

Anonymous said...

Catholic ethnic Rhode Island is the 17th wealthiest state on a personal per capita income basis. The predominantly British Isles derived Protestant state of West Virginia is 48th on the same list. Where are you getting the idea that is a failing state?

Billare said...

Steve, the HBO series "Brotherhood" is all about this. I highly recommend the first season. It is a series that focuses on one "upright" brother, Tommy, a talented councilman who eventually becomes State Senator, and another "dark sheep" brother, Mike, also talented, but who is heavily involved in taking over the local Sicilian and Irish mob. The show focuses on the simultaneous love and antipathy the two have for each other, and especially on how often their lives intersect, because many of the people they interact with in their seemingly separate professions deal intimately with one another all the time. For example, Mike's mob boss pressures Mike to persuade Tommy to deliver federally subsidized AA contracts for his crew, but there is always that tension with the high amount of familial loyalty that the clan expects of Mike to not ruin Tommy's good reputation. Basically, I'd say the problem with RI is that there are too many Irish and Italians there with a high degree of a-republican power.

Anonymous said...

"As far as being chronicled in the literature [or at least the celluloid], earlier this year, someone here at iSteve pointed out the role of the Cape Verdeans in the New Bedford rape which got Jodie Foster her first her first Best Actress Oscar."

Cape Verdeans played no role in that rape. The men involved were Portuguese, as was the victim.

Here's the story:
Big Dan's tavern - rape case in New Bedford, Massachusetts
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_v36/ai_3230920/

I remember when the story broke back in '83 and the trial in '84. There were pictures of the men involved in the local newspaper. They were Mediterranean looking.

Truth said...

"They were Mediterranean looking."

OOOps, somebody's nose just got smacked in a book!

(in other words, it's called 'education')

Ivy League Bastard said...

Other than parts of Providence and some wealthy coastal enclaves (Newport, Westerly), most of Rhode Island has been in the toilet for a long time. I don't think that RI is falling per se, it's just the mask of short term renewal coming off the tourist-friendly parts of the state that experienced some ups and more recently, downs. Cranston, Kingston and the rest have been dumps since time immemorial.

Local industry died long ago, with Providence having an impressive number of visible, East Berlin-style ruins to show for that. Old factories and train stations can be seen abandoned in states of collapse. As of a few years ago, near the downtown one could see gravel lots with giant chimneys standing alone atop rubble. Elsewhere in town there's a drawbridge that was kept open and disused for years, i.e., a useless bridge.

The Buddy Cianci heyday is gone (hello, Operation Plunder Dome!). Art and moviemaking as industries are no longer viable renewal strategies. Nor is Providence glamorized any more in a primetime network TV series. Brown University and, I assume, RISD, are toast financially and the graduates won't be sticking around much, if they ever did.