A New Project: Data Explorations of the Greek American Community
by Grigoris Argeros
Every once in a while, I find myself engaged in conversations with friends, acquaintances, relatives, and academics about the status of Greek Americans regarding their sociodemographic, cultural, and identity matters. I am asked, for example, whether “Greek immigrants are more likely to be unemployed or on public assistance than other immigrant groups.” Another recurrent question is about an oft-discussed issue: “Are Greeks more likely to have higher educational levels than other groups?”
The above discussions have become more common, especially after the Greek economic crisis in the early 2010s, which resulted in an influx of Greek immigrants to the United States. Questions such as “what is the socioeconomic background of those who came to the United States after the economic crisis?” or “are the new Greek immigrants wealthier or more highly educated than those who came here before the crisis?” have become common. A standard answer I provide to such inquiries is, “well, I would have to look it up.” It is practically impossible to know every sociodemographic detail of all sorts of things, including those about Greek America. As a result, in early February 2021, I started a project I call the “Data Explorations of the Greek American Community.”
The primary goal is to present sociodemographic and economic tables, figures, and maps on Greek Americans residing in the United States. The primary data source I use is from the U.S. Census Bureau, such as the decennial Census and from surveys such as the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). Census Bureau surveys and data are one of the most commonly used data sources in standard academic research. As with every data source, surveys from the Census Bureau are also not void of errors. But because of the methodological and statistical rigor of the surveys and data at the Census Bureau, along with the fact that it is the country’s primary source of sociodemographic and economic data for the purpose of allocating political and socioeconomic resources, I consider the Bureau the best available data source to capture a quantitative snapshot of Greek America. I will be adding more data sources in the future, pending the availability of information pertaining to the Greek Americans.
As with every attempt to quantitatively define and measure socially constructed concepts, the current project is also subject to certain methodological limitations based on data availability. A vital issue permeating the construction of tables, figures, and maps is the criteria for defining a “Greek American.” The project’s content defines a Greek American based on commonly used academic research indicators published in peer-reviewed journals, such as by ancestry and/or birthplace in Greece. Mother’s and father’s birthplace, including that of the person/householder, is used to define “generation.” CPS data provides information on mother’s and father’s birthplace, which allows the construction of generational variables. For example, those born in Greece are classified as first generation (Greek immigrants). Meanwhile, the second generation is defined as those who are born in the United States, and whose mother or father is either born in Greece or in the United States. Due to data limitations, it is almost impossible to identify the third-plus generation group, including the children of non-Greek immigrants born in Greece and having Greek citizenship, such as in the case of NBA super star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In addition to presenting the results on the first and second generation of the Greek American population in tabular and graphic form, I hope the current project will also generate discussion on matters pertaining to the Greek American community. Examples of possible discussions can focus on, but not limited to, the methods and the statistical ways on how Greek Americans are defined. In other words, which indicator is the best possible choice to define a Greek American given data availability. Other issues open to discussion pertain to identity, socioeconomic mobility, residential distribution, poverty, and generational socioeconomic differences within the Greek American community. I further hope that this project will generate ethnographic and sociological qualitative research—the collection of identity narratives for example—to illuminate the subjective experience of Greek Americans in connection to my quantitative findings.
In what follows, I am sharing a small sample of the numerous examples I am currently posting on the project’s Facebook page.
The first table (Table 1) looks at the top twenty places of persons reporting Greek ancestry and place of birth in Greece using data from the American Community Survey. While both of those reporting Greek ancestry or place of birth in Greece reside in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the table reveals that those reporting place of birth in Greece are more residentially clustered than those reporting only Greek ancestry. For example, 17.4% of those who reported birthplace in Greece are located in New York City compared to 6.3% of those reporting only Greek origin. Also, 31.5% of those born in Greece reside in the top twenty places listed in the table compared to just over 16% of those reporting only Greek ancestry. The higher residential clustering of Greek immigrants might be due to their recency of arrival and the need to be closer to jobs, relatives, friends and main city hubs. Meanwhile, those reporting only Greek ancestry are more likely to be in the third-plus generation, born in the United States, and having achieved higher socioeconomic and residential mobility than their immigrant counterparts.
Table 2, “Race and persons born in Greece” below, shows the percent of those born in Greece who self-identify as “White” versus those who identify as “non-White” between 1980 and 2019. While the overwhelming majority of those born in Greece identify as “White” in both periods, we also see that a larger share of Greek immigrants in 2019 identify with a “non-White” category than their counterparts in 1980. The increase in the percentage of foreign-born Greeks identifying as non-White will most likely raise discussion on Greek American identity for future generations.
Furthermore, a growing share of those born in Greece reported a “non-Greek” ancestry, as illustrated in Figure 1. According to this figure, the percentage of those born in Greece reporting Greek ancestry is much higher for those in 1980 than in 2019. On the other hand, those reporting a non-Greek ancestry increased by 470% (from 4.7% in 1980 to 26.8% in 2019). The equivalent relative change for those reporting a Greek origin decreased by 23% (from 95.3% in 1980 to 73.2% in 2019). This topic deserves to be further examined in more detail since it will provide clues, among other factors, on identity formation issues and generational assimilation of Greek immigrants and their successive native-born offspring.
The final table, Table 3, looks at intergenerational differences in food stamp recipiency. The second generation has a higher food recipiency rate than the first generation. While association does not translate to causation, the table certainly raises questions on issues on generational differences in poverty and socioeconomic mobility, among other issues.
The above tables and figure represent a small snapshot of the content I regularly post and update on the Facebook page “Data Explorations of the Greek American community” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1070387896790562), Instagram (handle name: https://www.instagram.com/greek_americans/), and Twitter ( https://twitter.com/greeksintheus). The Facebook page, however, has the most up-to-date information and results.
At a minimum, I hope that these resources will serve as a useful tool to academics, non-academics and policy makers on matters related to the Greek Diaspora. The intention and aspiration of reaching out to a diverse set of groups is to generate a broader discussion on various issues pertaining to the ever-changing sociodemographic and economic reality of the community.
I highly urge you to visit the project and feel free to submit comments, suggestions, and/or requests for particular sets of data analyses.
Grigoris Argeros , the native-born child of Greek immigrants from Corfu, Greece, is an Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology at Eastern Michigan University. His scholarly interests are in the areas of urban sociology, race and ethnicity, immigration, and social demography. His current research examines the correlates of patterns of racial and ethnic changes in urban and suburban neighborhood composition and class- and race-related changes in the level of locational attainment and residential segregation between racial and ethnic groups. He is currently working on a book, titled The Suburban Dream Revisited: Processes of Black Ethnic Group Suburbanization (under contract with Routledge).