April 9, 2014

Random notes from Gregory Clark's "Son Also Rises"

I have a lot of notes left over unused from my review in Taki's Magazine of Gregory Clark's The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. So, in no particular order:

The low social mobility seen under the Swedish welfare state over the last 75-80 years despite good public education and health care and all that might have something to do with the welfare state discouraging ambition and risk-taking. And/or it might have something to do with the Swedes sitting out WWII and much of the Cold War, which tended to open careers to talent in more active participants.

Here in the U.S., perhaps the most broadly accomplished surname on average is Huntington, almost all of whom trace back to a Puritan widow and her sons who arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630s. It's not a coincidence that one of the few elite voices against mass immigration in this century was Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington, who pointed out that his ancestors and their relatives had done a pretty good job building a nation even without much Mexican help.

Clark goes to some pains to distinguish the surnames of French Canadian-Americans from French-Americans. For example, Gagnon is 42 times more common per capita in Canada than in France, so Americans named Gagnon are mostly of French Canadian descent.

On the other hand, French Huguenots (Protestants) tended to do better in America. For example, Winston Churchill's American mother's maiden name was Jerome, and traces back to a Huguenot immigrant.
  

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is that Samuel P. Huntington?

dearieme said...

It's my impression that the Huguenots proved a boon wherever they settled. Certainly here; my wife is one of their descendants.

Anonymous said...

"...so Americans named Gagnon are mostly of French Canadian descent."

Like Rene Gagnon from "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima".

http://api.ning.com/files/4BzPwU11Kz3oA-tbjoVFwdwetNMH6EVVkKHb0fsf3MDDfA1SVbyVYgozHOt2k*MQlKUvYar**dASRHeQeFOKsh3WpTUpCOXg/IwoJima.jpg

Anonymous said...

Gagnon is the second most common surname after Tremblay in Quebec and considering 1/3 of the population of Quebec from 1870 to 1930 immigrated to the U.S. you would think more Americans who bear that surname would be famous or wealthy by now.

Steve Sailer said...

I can think of two high-achieving French Canadians from the San Fernando Valley when I was young:

- Mountain climber Yvon Chounaird, who founded Patagonia

- Drag racer Don Prudhomme who was king of the funny cars in the early 1970s. I hadn't realized Prudhomme is visibly a little bit black.

Clark goes to pains to exclude Louisiana French names because many are strongly to lightly black and concentrate on French Canadian names in America not found much in Louisiana.

biff said...

"the Swedes sitting out WWII and the Cold War'

The defining moment in 'the Swedish Third Way' was when the Swedish left noticed Sweden was building a battleship before WWI and asked, what for? It was for fighting alongside the German Navy in WWI. The Swedish left said no, bunch of strikes, blah blah, made it stick. Only case of the International Brotherhood of Working Persons actually convincing Fellow Workers to stay out of a war. Worked great. No trenches dug across Sweden, no mass malnutrition in Sweden, no undeniable atrocities committed by the Swedish military, no artillery barrages or mass bombing across Sweden- WIN.

BIG DEAL. WWII, Cold War, Sweddish Welfare State, blah blah, are nothing but epiphenomena to Sweden's sensible refusal to get frisky with Armagedddon. Armaggeddon it!

anony-mouse said...

Farage is also a Huguenot name.

Apparently they were a group of Continental immigrants to England who ended up changing England, at least to a certain extent, undoubtedly for the better.

economicsophisms.com said...

Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, we used to joke about how many of the lower class, dysfunctional whites (we called them "dirtbags") had French last names.

James Kabala said...

French Canadian surnames were probably the most common group at the high school I attended, and they ranged from the highest to the lowest in character and/or academic ability, no more and no less widely than those with Irish or Yankee or (like me) Polish surnames. So I do find this study rather surprising.



James Kabala said...

Let's try to make a list of well-known French-Canadian Americans:

Jack Kerouac (his surname is Breton, though)

Baseball great Nap Lajoie

Basketball great Bob Cousy

Baseball manager Leo Durocher

Singer Rudy Vallee

Singer Robert Goulet

Young adult author Robert Cormier

Marathon runner Joan Benoit

Friends actor Matt LeBlanc (maybe Clark should have put him on the cover of the book, if you know what I mean)

TV chef Emeril Lagasse (alternate candidate for that position)

The various members of the Theroux family

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau (maybe - Wikipedia says so, and he certainly shares a prominent Canadian surname, but his family has been integrated into the WASP elite for almost two hundred years, so I wonder if Huguenot descent is more likely.)




Steve Sailer said...

Being Catholic, I knew lots of French Canadian-Americans in the San Fernando Valley. A good friend was the nephew of a Hall of Fame football coach at U. of Missouri:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Faurot

I see now that my friend looked exactly like his uncle.

Anonymous said...

"Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, we used to joke about how many of the lower class, dysfunctional whites (we called them "dirtbags") had French last names."

SNL had sketches about this with Adam Sandler called "The Vallencourt Boys". It was two low class white New Englanders with French names completly unaware of the History and famous peoples of New England.

Anonymous said...

"Let's try to make a list of well-known French-Canadian Americans"

And perhaps Ashton Kutcher? Kutcher seems like an americanization of the surname Couture.

James Kabala said...

Are French Canadians common in California? I always thought of them as an almost exclusively New England group. (Almost everyone on my list above is from New England.)

Steve Sailer said...

I went to Notre Dame HS in Sherman Oaks. The Brothers of the Holy Cross are from Quebec. So, there was a modest French Canadian connection in terms of students and teachers. Nothing huge, but not nonexistent either.

Perspective said...

According to the PISA 2013 results French Canadians in Quebec do quite well in Math: "While the math scores in most provinces were sliding over the past decade, Quebec’s already strong results held steady. Students in Quebec outperform their rest-of-Canada peers in every mathematical category. Quebec students ranked sixth in the world, tied with Japan and Macao, and ahead of the Netherlands."
I would say heavily Scottish/Irish Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia tend to do less well compared with the rest of the country

Anonymous said...

The Huguenots were mostly from the nobility and the urban bourgeoisie with trade and French Canadians originated from rural French peasants on the masculine side and the King´s daugthers on the feminine side were mostly poor Parisian girls hence perhaps the genetics differences still today.

Anonymous said...

Mark Whalberg is French Canadian from his mother side. You wouldn't think of him being from low class white New England stock do you? LOL...bad example.

smead jolley said...

"...Leo Durocher ..."

He may have been FC, but his Yankee teammates called him "the All-American out."

John D. said...

"I always thought of them as an almost exclusively New England group."

Mostly, but there is a sizeable proportion of them in Michigan. Madonna's mother (Madonna Louise Fortin) who was French Canadian and Napoleon Chagnon are from Michigan. Ste. Anne Catholic church in Detroit was a French parish up until the 1940's for example.

And Illinois, French Canadians were very much present in Chicago trough the mid-19th Century and Bourbonnais and Ste. Anne de Kankakee were authentic French Canadian villages but now because of Chicago's gentrification it's mostly poor and black towns.

And Minnesota, lots of American hockey players with French names comes from there.

Galactic Overlord said...

Another notable French-Canadian American:

Paul Michael Levesque, better known as Triple H, part-time pro wrestler and current WWE executive.

He's a native of New Hampshire, a major center for French Canadian immigration before the big cutoff in the 1920s.

Anonymous said...

Mostly, but there is a sizeable proportion of them in Michigan.

Anybody here ever been to Charlevoix, MI?

David said...

There's almost a whole neighborhood of FC in Okeechobee, Florida. They live rather well. Everyone else affects to consider them kind of stand-offish.

DCThrowback said...

"I would say heavily Scottish/Irish Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia tend to do less well compared with the rest of the country"

NEWFIES!

http://www.newfiejokes.net/

(Think of Steve's reference to Mick Jagger and drummer jokes for the proper tone needed here.)

Anonymous said...

"Jack Kerouac (his surname is Breton, though)"

Altough less common, Kérouac or Kirouac is still a purebred French Canadian surname, especially in Eastern Quebec. Fun fact, Kerouac's mother, Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque was second cousin to separatist Premier René Lévesque.

John D. said...

"French Canadian surnames were probably the most common group at the high school I attended, and they ranged from the highest to the lowest in character and/or academic ability, no more and no less widely than those with Irish or Yankee or (like me) Polish surnames. So I do find this study rather surprising."


Most of the French Canadian immigrant descendants lives quiet middle-class lifestyles but for an immigration of their size almost none of them made it big and that's strange and raises questions.

Thorfinnsson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Kabala said...

It turns out that the origins of Kerouac as a surname are extremely murky and were repeatedly lied about by Kerouac himself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac#Early_life_and_adolescence

The K does seem to be a tell-tale sign of Celtic-not-Romance etymology, though.

Biff said...

>Biff is full of it-

Lot of that going around. Would you say there was no effort by the Swedish right to join with Germany in WWI? I think you'd agree that the Swedish left disagreed, and also agree that the Swedish left ran the country afterwards. I certainly agree that the way the Swedish left ran the country had a big down side. Naval technicalities can be vital as well as fascinating. Still, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden were not Swedish cities when things went pear-shaped. I'd say Swedes noticed and voted accordingly.

Saint Louis said...

I also grew up in VT and found the same thing as EconomicSophist; while not all the dirtbags were French Canadians, just about all the French Canadians were dirtbags

Saint Louis said...

If the explanation for underperformance by French Canadians is that most of the Frech immigrants to the New World were peasant farmers, then how do you explain the Italians? Most Italian immigrants were also the rural or semi-rural poor, yet according to Clark, Italians have done just fine in the US. And anecdotally, I can name about 50 times as many really successful Italian-Americans as Franco-Americans.

I have two possible suggestions for the discrepancy:

(1) The quality of immigrants from France to Canada wasn't any lower than that of Italy to the US, but the quality of immigrants from Canada to the US was. Perhaps the lowest achieving French Canadians tended to come to the US. This would also explain why Quebec doesn't seem to do too badly despite being full of French-Canadians.

(2) Italian immigrants mostly ended up in large metropolitan areas (e.g. New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco) where there was greater access to the entertainment industry, media, world-class educational institutions, etc. There was a much greater potential for fame and fortune. Conversely, most French-Canadian immigrants ended up in northern Michigan, upstate New York, and northern New England. There aren't a whole lot of really famous farmers or loggers.

Steve Sailer said...

Saint Louis sounds about right.

I'd add that poor Italian immigrants still tended to possess a variety of skills useful in wealthy urban civilizations developed over thousands of years. E.g., an Italian-American friend of mine from high school is quite rich now off his family's marble contracting business that puts in millions of dollars worth of marble for rich people in the Hollywood Hills.

French Canadians developed outstanding trapping, hunting, and lumberjacking skills, but they aren't as much in demand in the modern economy as the luxury-oriented skills (and mere mental orientations) brought by Italians.

One important question is Latin Americans: are they the New Italians with skills honed over thousands of years of civilization. Or are they like a lower skilled version of New French Canadians?

John C. said...

"Are French Canadians common in California? I always thought of them as an almost exclusively New England group. (Almost everyone on my list above is from New England.)"

I would have tought so too but from but from 1859 to 1876 three French-Americans were mayors of Los Angeles: two French-Canadians and one Frenchman. Damien Marchessault, Jose Mascarel and Prudent Beaudry. Interesteting to know, while Prudent Beaudry was Mayor of LA, his brother was Mayor of Montreal.

Were they a powerful class of merchants of LA at the time or because they were White and catholics a bridge between the WASP and the Hispanics?