For Immediate Release, June 2002:


Italian Surnames Fail to Reach the Top in the USA


New York -  Researchers at the Italic Institute of America have concluded that an Italian surname is apparently an impediment to reaching the upper ranks of American society.  Although wealth is not the issue, it is evident that the number of Italian surnames in the power centers of the nation falls far short of what one might expect in an assimilated society.  The ability to be appointed or elected to power positions may be severely hindered by an Italian surname.  In contrast, Italian surnames abound in “middle management” positions throughout society, where job performance counts.


The study, entitled the Gianelli Report, is named for a fictional U.S. Vice President in the 1962 novel Seven Days in May.  The reference to Gianelli is meant to show how from the 1960’s Italian Americans were thought to be a potent political force.  The reality now appears that assimilation and unrelenting media defamation since the Valachi Hearings (1963) and The Godfather(1972) movie series have drained away any ethnic advantages.  Despite a 1983 New York Times Magazine cover story predicting Italian Americans “coming into their own”, the last major political appointment was in 1986 when President Reagan selected Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court.  The turbulent campaign of Geraldine Ferraro for the U.S. Vice Presidency in 1984 was the defining moment for Italian American political expectations.  It was the last attempt to break the political barrier.


Among the “power centers” identified by the Institute are: Fortune 500 company executives, national media executives, leadership in the Federal government, State governors, 50 major city mayors, Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, military leaders, and academic elite.  These sectors were surveyed to determine the percentage of Italian surnames compared to the Italian American population (between 6-7 percent).  In the case of the Church, Italian Americans compose some 26 percent of the total Catholic population but represent only 8 percent of the Church leadership.


It was found that although Italian surnames reach 12 percent of the CEO’s in the Fortune 500, the balance of the executive suite has only 3 percent, indicating lack of tickle-down favoritism.


In government, there are presently no governors or lieutenant governors with Italian surnames in the nation and only one mayor (Thomas Menino of Boston) of the 50 largest cities.


Corporations such as Bank of America and Planters Peanuts, which were founded by Italian Americans, now have none on their executive boards.  High profile companies that promote Italian cultural products such as The Olive Garden restaurant chain and Domino’s Pizza also have no Italian-surnamed executives. 


A copy of the full study is available to the media at no charge, for all others there is a $15 fee.   ItalicOne@            or   Italic Institute of America, PO Box 818, Floral Park, NY 11001


The Italic Institute of America is an educational non-profit founded in 1987. Tel. 212.268.8085 or 516.488.7400.



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