United States. Temporary National Economic Committ.

Investigation of concentration of economic power; monograph no. 1[-43] (Volume no. 2) online

. (page 2 of 19)
Online LibraryUnited States. Temporary National Economic CommittInvestigation of concentration of economic power; monograph no. 1[-43] (Volume no. 2) → online text (page 2 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Administration. Actual field enumeration was conducted during
August, September, and October of 1939. The enumerators and field
supervisors chosen to conduct the survey were selected from the
Massachusetts W. P. A. rolls and were in most cases men who had
had previous experience as life-insurance agents. Thus they were
familiar with many of the technical details involved and were experi-
enced in house-to-house canvassing. Enumeration was further facili-
tated by the selection of personnel qualified to speak the languages
of the policyholders with whom they came in contact. This not only
facilitated enumeration but made for greater accuracy in the final
results. Foreign languages spoken by the enumerators included
Spanish, French, German, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Yiddish,
Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Syrian.

The enumerators were carefully instructed 4 as to the objectives of
the survey. Each was sworn to treat as confidential the information
revealed to him by the families: Each was provided with an identi-
fication card carrying his photograph and certifying him as an accred-
ited agent of the United States Government. 6 In addition to direction
in the proper filling out of the schedules, it was impressed upon all
those engaged in the survey that they were not to criticize any insur-
ance company or plan of insurance; that they were, to give no advice
regarding insurance, and that they could not force anyone to give the
information desired.

Most of the families upon which -enumerators were instructed to call
were notified by letter 6 of the fact that a properly accredited agent of
the United States Government would call upon them to obtain certain
information. The use of such letters tended to weaken the natural
reticence of individuals with respect to family affairs and reduced the
number of refusals. In general, the information sought was readily
given.

The information obtained from each farnily was entered by the
enumerator at the time of the enumeration on a prepared schedule. 7
The schedules were checked in the office of the survey for internal
consistency, and where any question of accuracy or interpretation
arose .the enumerator or the field supervisor was sent back to the

r

*Seep. 84. <

» Sec p. 83.

• An example of these letters is reproduced as appendix 2, p. 82.

' A copy of the schedule is reproduced as appendix 1, p. 79.



4 CONCENTRATION OF ECONOMIC POWER

family to verify the data. After all schedules were completed in the
field they received careful scrutiny by members of the Commission's
staff. Official rate books, annual dividend schedules, and specimen
policy forms were employed to verify the policy information entered
on the schedules. In addition, adjustments 8 were made to show the
actual amount of insurance in force as well as the actual cost of premi-
ums on an annual basis after making allowance for dividends. It
should be emphasized that the results summarized in this report are
all based upon these adjusted figures for premiums and the adjusted
amounts of insurance in force. In this respect it is believed that this
study is unique.

It is not claimed that the conditions in the areas surveyed are
necessarily typical; indeed, there are many reasons to believe that
they may be somewhat better than those existing elsewhere. Never-
theless, it is felt that the conditions described in this study apply to a
very large proportion of the population. It is hoped that this study
will throw some light upon a complex problem of great social impor-
tance — the character of the present distribution of life insurance —
particularly among those low-income families primarily dependent
upon industrial insurance.

• See appendix 6, p. 94.



Plate 1










Typical Housing Conditions in blocks surveyed.



Plate 2











Typical Housing conditions in Blocks Surveyed.



CHAPTER II

Description of the Areas Covered in the Survey and the 2,132
Families Reported

Housing Conditions — Population — Nationalities — Relief
Status — Size of Families — Economic Status

Metropolitan Boston (chart 1, p. 6) is not unlike a great many other
American industrial communities. Its population is cosmopolitan.
Industries and occupations are widely diversified. The economic
status of metropolitan Boston families is much the same as in other
urban centers.

Since the primary purpose of the survey was to study the holders
of industrial insurance, and since industrial insurance is sold almost
entirely to families in the lower-income groups, no attempt was made
to include areas occupied by families in the higher income groups.
Nevertheless, the areas selected varied over a wide range of conditions.
At one extreme were blocks consisting of tidy well-built single or
double houses, with plenty of light and air, and with attractive
flower or vegetable gardens. At the other extreme were congested
tenement blocks where there was little air and sunshine and where
the views consisted of littered alleys and areaways. 1

Between these extremes of living conditions was the group on which
the survey was concentrated. O* the 35 separate groups of families
selected for enumeration, there were some at each end of the scale,
but the majority consisted of areas in which the housing conditions
were intermediate. Each of the groups selected, except 2, consisted
of families living in city blocks, within definite street boundaries,
where the housing conditions were fairly homogeneous. All families
in these "blocks" were considered as within the scope of the survey.
Of the 2 other groups one was composed of Negro families which
were enumerated where they were found in different sections of the
city, and 1 was composed of families residing in a low-rent housing
project of the United States Housing Authority. Since it would
have been impracticable to cover all of the families living there,
approximately one-fifth of these families were called upon.

Population. There were 3,548 families in the blocks selected. 2
Full and complete schedules were obtained from 2,132 of these fami-
lies, or almost two-thirds of the families living in the areas selected.
The remaining third of the families were away, sick, quarantined, or
unwilling or unable to give complete information. In some cases
they were unable to show their policies because they were kept for
them by persons living elsewhere; in other cases their policies were in
the custody of their insurance companies. There were some instances
where families refused to give the information requested. 3

1 Illustrations of typical housing conditions in blocks surveyed appear in pp. 4-5, 74-75.

2 The count was made from the most recent city directories, police lists, and voting lists.

3 In this connection it might be noted that there were a number of families which gave information about
their income and relief status but which, on advice from their insurance agents, refused to give information
about their policies.



6



CONCENTRATION OF ECONOMIC POWER



Chart 1

LOCATION OF AREAS COVERED IN SURVEY
OF LIFE INSURANCE POLICYHOLDERS




CONCENTRATION OF ECONOMIC POWER
Blocks surveyed: Principal characteristics of population



Block
desig-
nation



Race or mother tongue '



American, Irish —

Irish, American -

Irish, Italian..

Irish, American

Negro -.-

Portuguese, American, Polish, Italian

Italian, Polish

Irish, American, Italian, Syrian—

Irish, Syrian, Italian

Italian, Syrian, Greek, South European....

Syrian — ._.

Italian . —

do

Italian, American, French-Canadian. r

Irish, American

Irish, American, English, Canadian

Jewish

Irish, American, French

American, Irish

American, Italian

Irish, American, Italian

...do

Irish, American, French-Canadian

Irish, Italian, American

Irish

American^ Irish, Italian, French-Canadian

Irish, American, French -Canadian

Irish , American

Irish, American, Italian.

Irish, American, German

Italian, Irish

Irish, American, Lithuanian

American, German ..

American, French-Canadian

Irish, American

Total....



Total
number
of fami-
lies »



115

72

76

80

70

63

49

156

145

42

52

220

108

95

89

160

120

70

95

143

83

117

143

136

89

76

119

58

91

88

142

71

46

149



2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryUnited States. Temporary National Economic CommittInvestigation of concentration of economic power; monograph no. 1[-43] (Volume no. 2) → online text (page 2 of 19)