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An 1919 Illinois Health Commission Report showed that 81.9% of wage earning families in the City of Chicago had at least one member with a life insurance policy. Even among the poorest residents, 73% purchased life insurance. Further 9 in 10 blacks held some life insurance, a share larger than ANY other native group, including whites. Who were the laggards? We Italians, with only 57.8% purchasing policies. Being Italian myself, I will not be offended by comments discussing our lapse here.

HT: David Beito’s excellent, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State

4 Responses to “Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Insurance Markets Unraveling Edition”

  1. John Fisher of Rochester says:

    A complete shooting from-from-the-hip hypothesis and a call for more research:

    Could it be that the Italians of 1919 Chicago had very strong extended family ties – thus creating an informal insurance system among close-knit family groups? If so, this could substitute for full protection through the more formal insurance market.

    I haven’t read Beito’s book, so my request may be answered there. The interesting next step from the stats you cite would be to see how those life insurance statistics change over time, and especially how they change while government safety net programs increase.

  2. Michael says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as John, but was considering if there was “insurance” with the Catholic church. I don’t know right off hand.

  3. wintercow20 says:

    @ John: Beito does not address the former point but does show the latter. The crowd out doesn’t seem to come just from the government safety net, but also from the emergence of commercial organizations which were more efficient than the mutual aid organizations. There are public choice issues there, and the book is quite interesting on those points.

    As for we Italians, I have a feeling that some of it is due to membership in Knights of Columbus but don’t believe my second intuition – that Italians were generally apprehensive of formally integrating into American life … it doesn’t jive with my hometown’s experience, though after learning about the rise of the public school movement maybe my story has some truth to it

  4. Harry says:

    Wintercow, I just heard John Stossel refer to the mutual aid societies that were part of daily life in the early twentieth century, and I thought of your study on this subject. Perhaps you could expand his insight on the matter.

    I would suggest you e-mail your fellow (derivative) friend Italian Nancy Pelosi on the matter, but she may be as Frank Rizzo, RIP, is. She is a Mussolini Italian.

    Speaking of insurance, the Pennsylvania Senate has a bill in the, er, hopper to get rid of joint and several liability, which is anathema to Philadelphia lawyers, who have unwisely have contributed to support Democrat politicians disproportionately over the years. It would make my year to see that happen.

    OK, if I could hit a golf ball another ten to fifteen yards longer, that would really make my year better, but why can’t have both? Argentina-style inflation being quashed would be a plus, and not having World War III would be happy.

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