Poverty on welfare. “Opere Pie”, poor relief and public charity.
This is among the richest sources of information for the reconstruction of family budgets on which the HHB project is currently
working. The request for State subsidies, welfare support and charitable assistance to any public or private institution
is often accompanied by a description of the socio-economic conditions of the applicant's family. The size of the sample
to be analyzed could therefore be enormous. Such documentation has a tremendous potential for analysis, especially for the
study of the most disadvantaged classes.
Patients in default. Credit recovery by municipal hospitals.
The case of hospitals being owed large amounts by patients who failed to pay hospital fees was so frequent that the Italian
government has had to address it through several legislative initiatives. There exists extensive documentation testifying
to the incessant attempt of hospitals (especially municipal ones) to recover amounts due. The economic conditions of the
debtors were then thoroughly investigated. A first survey done on this source in the Florence Municipal Archive revealed
documentation on the economic conditions of about 600 Florentine and non-Florentine families, in the years 1920-1942.
Home (desperately) wanted. Requests for affordable housing.
During Fascism, Rome was in full expansion, and experienced a full-fledged housing crisis. The private real estate market
was having a hard time standing up to the boom in housing requests, especially low cost ones. For this reason the Governorate
of Rome intervened, and promoted an affordable housing policy. From the detailed information required of those who applied
for affordable housing, the economic conditions of the families can be reconstructed. It is very difficult to precisely estimate
of the number of budgets to be obtained from this source: potentially, they could be as many as 35,000, for the years indicated,
although information needed for family budgets reconstruction is not always reported.
Where you least expect it. The budgets of the bankrupt.
Among the sources that have already been used to construct the HHB Project Database, one of the most unusual is represented
by the trial files for bankruptcy. Family expenses of small business owners, typically small and medium-sized artisans and
traders, are often found within the budgets of bankrupt companies. These budgets were preserved because the Italian Civil
Code made explicit request for this information on the balance sheet, to see if family expenses were compatible with the
company's business trend.
Kept on file. The archives of public and private employees.
These archival collections are a curious and innovative source for the study of households’ living conditions, although extremely
variable in terms of the information they contain. Employee files, both from public bodies and private companies, contain
most of the time all the information needed to reconstruct family budgets and represent an extremely valuable documentation,
because they are a snapshot of the economic conditions of social groups that are poorly represented in official surveys:
the middle class clerk, often relegated to being the great silent majority.
Rich and super-rich. The private accounting of noble families.
One of the most common criticisms of household budget studies is that they supposedly exclude the right tail of the income
distribution (the richest households). Such a criticism could be tackled by incorporating sources which, in fact, precisely
represent this segment of society. Many Italian archives, scattered throughout the national territory, preserve accounting
records and other documentation of noble or merely well-to-do families who, to preserve imperishable memory of themselves,
donated their "papers" to the local provincial and / or municipal archives.
Philanthropic Milan. The archive of the humanitarian society of Milan.
The Milan Humanitarian Society (MHS) is undoubtedly one of the most notable examples of private social assistance in Italy.
But the MHS would also carry out researches on the economic conditions of the working classes. It has produced an unparalleled
amount of scientific studies, from which it clearly emerges that family budgets were an instrument of investigation well
known to its officials. The studies carried out throughout the liberal period on Milanese urban crafts (tailors, glaziers,
silk workers, dyers, pastry cooks, etc.) are of particular interest. The 1903 Milanese working class census will be a useful
When numbers count. The competition for large families.
Following the directives of the Fascist Regime, the governorship of Rome specifically supported and assisted large families,
to whom various facilities were reserved. The most curious initiative, which is at the same time the most interesting for
our purposes, was a competition for large families, organized for three years in a row starting in 1932: the competition
would give away six houses every year, to be assigned to the six more deserving families. Information regarding competitors
is every bit as valuable as other sources in recovering family budgets. Beyond monetary information, other interesting pieces
information are provided, such as family pictures, medical and criminal files of each individual, or police and examining