Intermarriage among Italians: Some Regional Variations in Australia [*]

Article excerpt

PARIMAL ROY [**]

IAN HAMILTON M. [**]

INTRODUCTION

This paper is part of a larger project on the prevalence of intermarriage in Australia based on an analysis of census data. The primary aim of the paper is to identify the extent of intermarriage between Italian-born migrants, people born in Australia and other birthplace groupings. The analysis focuses on the pattern of Italian intermarriage in Gippsland in order to demonstrate that the incidence differs from that in urban areas of Australia. Gippsland is a rural region in south-eastern Australia where the economy is based on brown coal power generation, a paper mill, timber extraction and dairying. Intermarriage in Gippsland will be compared with another rural area within the same state of Victoria and with the urban area of Melbourne. The rural area chosen for comparison with Gippsland was the statistical division of North East region in the state of Victoria. This area was selected because it contained a significant number of Italian immigrants who have been settled for a long period, primarily in the to bacco industry. In addition the state of Queensland, which has a high percentage of Italian immigrants, also in tobacco and sugar growing regions, was identified separately in the analyses. Cost considerations precluded the division of Queensland into rural and urban regions. Comparisons will also be made with intermarriage patterns among Italians in Melbourne, which has a long history of Italian settlement (Jones, 1967), and is the Australian city with the highest proportion of Italian immigrants.

The data on which the analysis is based were drawn from the 1986 Census and contain information regarding the age, birthplace and area of residence of adults identified from 3,377,082 households in all states and territories which reported two partners living in the household. The measure of ethnicity used was birthplace of partners, and the analysis focussed on variations in interethnic marriages. The special tabulations purchased from the Australian Bureau of Statistics did not allow for the identification of the second or subsequent generation of immigrants. This means that people born in Australia, whose parents were born overseas, are classified as Australian regardless of their ethnic origin or identification. Groups based on birthplace may contain a significant percentage of 'persons of mixed ancestry', as acknowledged by Lieberson and Waters (1985:43), and discussed by Price and Zubrzycki (1962a), Lampugnani and Travaglia (1994) and Roy and Hamilton (1997). Therefore the in-marriage rate will be unde restimated as a marriage between the Australian born children of parents from the same ethnic group will be classified as an Australian-Australian marriage, rather than an ethnic group-ethnic group marriage.

Changes in intermarriage patterns over time were estimated from the age grouping of partners which were coded into five groups each covering ten years from 20 years to 59 years with a separate group for all people aged 60 years and above. Assuming that age at marriage for the great majority of couples was between 20 and 29 years the data included couples marrying during the period from the late 1930s to the 1980s. Since the second World War there have been significant changes in the composition of the population in Australia and these have been accompanied by increased interaction among diverse groups of people. Therefore, because of interaction with the host society over a period of time, it is to be expected that there will be an increase in marriages between different cultural groups. Until the mid- 1960s Italian-born arrivals were the second largest group after the British. If the choice of a partner is affected by the degree to which culture is shared, then one would expect that the pattern of intermarr iage among Italians would vary by age and generation, and that in-marriage would be greater among the old and those in earlier generations, because for them ethnicity is more important in the selection of a partner than among the young and those in later generations. …