Diversity’s Blind Spot: Catholic Ethnics on the Faculties of Elite American Universities

Richard Alba, State University of New York-Albany

In the United States, Italian Americans and other European groups from predominantly Catholic backgrounds provide a critical test case of the continuing power of past institutional exclusion.  While these ethnic groups have advanced into the socioeconomic mainstream and that, other than religion and forms of symbolic ethnicity, little distinguishes them on average from other whites, questions remain about their ability to enter elite academic institutions.  Catholics were long excluded from the faculty of elite universities, many of which originally had Protestant denominational affiliations.  While this systemic discrimination gradually came to an end during the twentieth century, the prejudices of intellectuals against Italian Americans and other predominantly Catholic groups have not disappeared.  The empirical analysis to be presented demonstrates that, despite the educational ascent of Italian Americans, they remain substantially underrepresented on elite faculties.  The implication is that they continue to face subtle prejudices and discrimination.