Today I followed a link to this fascinating book review about the origins and current state of gypsy populations in southern Europe. The book itself focuses on Serbian Roma, but I can’t imagine that the Romanians are much different. Among the grim facts that I learned:
- “[T]he Roma are socially excluded (and exclude themselves) with life expectancies 10 to 15 years lower than the European norm, high infant mortality, and an 80% unemployment rate.”
- “Their code of conduct minimizes contact with non-gypsy people, and particularly abjures marriage with non-gypsies.”
- “Non-Roma are seen as unclean and polluting, interactions with them are to be avoided, and theft and crimes against non-Roma are not morally wrong.” This is the sort of thing that is frequently repeated as a calumny against gypsies in Romania, so it’s interesting to see a scholarly author essentially confirm it.
- The Roma have “horrific figures for child mortality: 6 per 100 for Christian Orthodox Roma, 13 per 100 for Muslim Roma. By way of comparison, the highest global under-5 death rates are in Africa, at 90 per 1000, and for Europe only 12 per 1000.”
The author of the review goes on to conclude that most of the health and intelligence issues in the gypsy community are due to inbreeding, as well as some other issues. Overall, it’s a depressing read that doesn’t leave one with a lot of optimism for the gypsies.