inbreeding in italy

ok. so, first we looked at all the outbreeding amongst the germanic folks in europe since the early medieval period. then i started looking at the inbreeding that continued for longer around the periphery of western europe — ireland, spain. and i promised to look at italy next. so here we go…

well, if the marriage practices of medieval spain were muy, muy complicado to understand, then italy is impossibile! native latins, lombards, ostrogoths, saracens, greeks — mamma mia! if you think i got a handle on all that after a couple of weeks of reading — was the matter wit you? fuggedaboutit!

i couldn’t even find any good books/articles on the topic of marriage/family/kinship in medieval italy (like i did for the germanics and spain and ireland). can it be that no one has studied la familia in italy in the middle ages?? maybe all the books are in italian, i dunno (if anyone has any good references, please let me know). ima gonna look back at jack goody’s books on the development of the family in europe to see what he had to say (if anything) about italy, but until then i ain’t got much to say about marriage in medieval italy, capiche?

what i do have for you, tho, are some numbers on cousin marriage in italy in the 20th century.

cavalli-sforza, et. al., took a look at the catholic church dispensations for cousin marriages throughout italy between 1910 and 1964. the data were published online back in ’04 but seem to have disappeared since then. but i found the webpages on the internet archive (three cheers for the wayback machine!).

below is a little chart i worked up of the percentages of first cousin marriages for all the regions for the first (1910-1914) and last (1960-64) of the time periods at which they looked. i included only the first cousin marriages since first-cousin-once-removed (1 1/2C) and second cousin (2C) marriages were not included for sicily and i wanted to be able to compare all the regions. note that the reason cavalli-sforza, et. al., didn’t include 1 1/2C and 2C marriages for sicily is that sicilians are exempt from having to get dispensations to marry those family members, so presumably the rates for those marriages are pretty high!

first, here’s a map of the regions and provinces of italy in the year 1961:

and the chart:

as you can see, the numbers for southern regions like sicily and calabria in the ’60s are ridiculously high! 48.74% in agrigento? — and 48.49% in reggio calabria? and that’s just first cousin marriages! those rates are like the rates for saudi arabia and pakistan today! i have no idea what the contemporary rates for italy are, but enquiring minds want to know.

(edit: i forgot to mention that i believe that the type of cousin marriage that is most common in sicily is cross-cousin marriage — that is either father’s sister’s daughter [fzd] or mother’s brother’s daughter [mbd] — but i’m not sure which one. i’m gonna put my money on mbd marriage since fzd is similar to the dreaded father’s brother’s daughter [fbd] marriage which seems to produce the extremely clannish/tribal/paternalistic societies like we find in saudi arabia and afghanistan. sicilians are a little macho and paternalistic, but sicilian women ain’t walkin’ around in burkas. fbd marriage is, of course, the common form in saudi arabia and pakistan.)

the lowest rates in the ’60s occurred further north in italy, like in emilia-romagna, which is described in wikipedia like this:

“Emilia–Romagna today is considered as one of the richest and most developed regions in Europe and has the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, the region’s capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life, and has highly advanced and modern social services. Emilia–Romagna is also a major cultural and touristic centre, being the home of the oldest university in the Western World, containing numerous Renaissance cities (such as Modena, Parma and Ferrara), being a major centre for food and automobile production (Emilia–Romagna is home of numerous iconic gastronomical and automotive industries, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati)….”

somebody oughta compare these inbreeding rates, which are higher in southern italy than in the north, with italian iq scores … which are reportedly lower in southern italy than in north. (can you say: inbreeding depression?) hmmmmmmmmm.

ciao, miei amori!

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

update 11/11: see also m.g. miles’ map of average consanguinity (first-cousin marriage) rates in italy based on cavalli-sforza’s data in this post @those who can see.

(note: comments do not require an email. awesome!)


  1. I notice the Wikipedia article on cousin marriage has nary a word about the adverse social consequences of high rates of cousin marriages, concentrating entirely on the alleged genetic costs at the level of the individual, which are being challenged. It mentioned in passing that half of the Pakistani marriages in Britain are between cousins, with no hint of the effects this might have on assimilation. Ignorance is . . . what?


  2. @luke – “I notice the Wikipedia article on cousin marriage has nary a word about the adverse social consequences of high rates of cousin marriages….”

    well, it’s just not on anybody’s radar at all. the only people aware of stuff related to inclusive fitness are biologists and us crazy hbd-ers.

    maybe i should do a little wikipedia editing…. (~_^)


  3. It’s probably worth noting Sicily’s history of control. While for most of recorded history, it was in the power of Rome or Italy, it initially had a large Phoenician settlement and the first Punic War was waged between Rome and Carthage for control of Sicily. There was also period of about a century that Sicily was controlled by the Saracens (Arabs) followed by Norman rule. Obviously, the Arabs did not have the same impact on Sicily as they did on Malta, which has a variation of Arabic as its national language despite being a Christian state, but Sicily’s history does separate it in some ways from the rest of Italy.


  4. “can it be that no one has studied la familia in italy in the middle ages?”

    I think you may have answered your question in the earlier sentences. I bet there’s books on medieval family structures in Lombardy and others on Sicly and others on other regions because it’s so varied and complex.


  5. @g.w. – “I really wonder if in-breeding suppresses IQ to a certain extent.”

    i’ve been thinking about this lately, and i even wrote about it somewhere on the blog here, but i don’t recall where just now (might’ve been in a comment).

    inbreeding obviously doesn’t necessarily depress iq — look at ashkenazi jews.

    otoh, what about the effects of tribalism on iq — vs. being more of an independent individual? as an independent individual, you’ve got to make it more-or-less on your own or not — and succeed in raising kids and passing on your genes. if you don’t make it, then neither do your genes.

    if you’re in a clan or a tribe, almost EVERYBODY can go along for the ride, and maybe even get to mate ’cause they’ll just marry the slightly loser son off to one of the slightly loser cousins. and the whole extended family helps the couple to raise their kids. see what i mean?

    actually, i just thought of the perfect analogy for it — the tribe is like the nanny state — dysgeneic ’cause it carries along the not-so-smart — and even helps them to reproduce.


  6. “inbreeding obviously doesn’t necessarily depress iq — look at ashkenazi jews”

    My gut feel is you’d need conscious eugenics to counter the effect but that is entirely evidence-free at the mo.

    “see what i mean?”

    Yes. It creates a fundamentally different kind of society – maybe worse in some ways – but infinitely more productive.


  7. This would have been a much better post without all the asinine “Italian” clichés. You could at least have spelled capisci correctly. How hard is it to eschew reducing an entire people to a caricature drawn entirely from talmudvision, f’crissakes.


  8. […] southern Italians don’t just bring their lower average IQ, they also bring their culture, a culture shaped by centuries of inbreeding.  Here are a few more of those maps from M.G.’s blog that look at the things that correlate […]


  9. On Muslims: anyone given thought to why body image apparently rates so low as a consideration among Muslim males (I’m Australian, and male body image is almost as much of a consideration here as female body image) and, to a lesser extent, among Muslim females?

    I was recently in Kuala Lumpur, where there were a lot of Iranian and Arab tourists at the hotel pool at the same time as I was, and–let me tell you–a bunch of dudes in more pitiable physical shape I’ve never seen.

    I’ve got a few ideas (in part occasioned by HBD Chick’s thinking on Muslim marital customs) about why this is the case but won’t bother with them here if there’s no interest in the topic.


  10. By ‘…to a lesser extent…’ I of course meant that Muslim females ALSO seem to care less about their physique than do Western females but that the difference between females from the respective populations (Muslim on the one hand, Western on the other) is not as great as that between males from the respective populations.


  11. I am married to a ‘watered’ down Sicilian American, my father in law 100% Sicilian married a muddled amerikan mother in law of british and whatever decent. I am the muddledmy grandfather was german my grandmother russian, jewish both from Bessarabian and my mother and East Frisian German with roots in Holland.
    My children’s DNA is screaming ;-)


  12. My paternal great-grandfather married his mother’s sister’s daughter (msd), a parallel cousin marriage. You write elsewhere about the difference between fbd and fsd marriage, in terms of inheritance, endogamy vs. exogamy, etc., but seem to have glossed over the difference between fbd and msd parallel cousin marriages. Both tend to be prohibited, but for different reasons. Both are endogamous, but along different lines. Also, the X chromosome is not inherited in a way that is parallel to the Y chromosome, so these two cases of parallel cousins are not genetically, um, parallel in that sense, though they are in terms of autosomal DNA. I am interested to know your thoughts. I realize this thread is rather old but I just fleshed out more of my family tree recently and remembered this post about inbreeding. Vlogger Stefan Molyneux is always harping about how inbreeding shaves off IQ points. For my two cents worth, I would like to point out that IQ (or G) is clearly not the only adaptive trait selected, so its importance to survival should not be overemphasized, even in a modern context. A population only needs a small high-IQ caste. Also, in case you haven’t read it already, this fairly recent paper (2014) sheds light on the founding populations of Sicily, and its findings contradict several widespread assumptions:


  13. This page is complete nonsense. The data you quote is per thousand, not percent. Divide all the percentages in your table by 10. For Agrigento, where I am from, even 5% seems to be ridiculously overstated. I have done genealogical research up to the 18th century for my own family as well as for some of my friends, and have literally zero examples of first-cousin or second-cousin marriages, though there definitely are third-cousin marriages. Your accusations are inflammatory to the Sicilian people, and your use of Italian-American stereotyping in what is supposed to be a scientific discussion is offensive.


  14. The source you provided says the numbers provided in the table are per mille (‰), not percent (%). That’s kind of a huge blunder.


  15. @ Anonymous 08/07/2016 at 2:22 PM. “The data you quote is per thousand, not percent….Your accusations are inflammatory to the Sicilian people, and your use of Italian-American stereotyping in what is supposed to be a scientific discussion is offensive.”

    I would have to support the above observations made by Anonymous. Drawing conclusions simply from numbers without consideration for other associated factors or perspectives is a facile and questionable practice for science, particularly in biology. Marriage practices, especially in rural areas where grinding poverty and isolation were constant factors through the centuries, often reflected socio-geographical manipulations and not choice.

    In addition, IQ and lack of access to education are two entirely different matters. IQ tests are notoriously only as good as their design and just as often open to biased interpretation. Significant variation and skewing can be everything. You can shake up your little tombola cup of “numbers” as much as you want, but every throw-down will result in a new configuration.


  16. The numbers are per mille, not percent. You have overestimated everything by an order of magnitude.


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