Thursday, October 08, 2009

Support for private property rights by ethnicity

Last month blogger TGGP wondered why the myth that Native Americans had no concept of private property is so remains so reticent today:

He claims that native americans were baffled by the concept of private property, believing all land was holy and belonged to nature. That was a myth made up to justify seizing their land, then later adopted by environmentalists sympathetic to their plight. A few pages later he writes “the local Buryats seemed able to make as
many distinctions between one kind of dung an another as Eskimos could with snow”. The Eskimo-words-for-snow meme is also mythical. What is it about native americans that results in this stuff being so widely believed?
The image of North America's indigenous population has been transformed over the last century from the stoic warrior (which is why their variations have been such popular sports team mascots) to the pacifist proto-hippie, partially in the service of environmentalists, for which myths like those surrounding Chief Seattle are used to portray real estate development sacrilege.

What about contemporary views on private property? In 2000, the GSS asked if, in a free society, it is right if a few people accumulate a lot of wealth and property while many others live in poverty. For ease of presentation, I've inverted the responses so that, on a 5 point scale, 5 indicates strong agreement and 1 indicates strong disagreement. Thus, the higher the index value, the more supportive a group is of private property rights. The following table shows average scores for various ethnic groups:

Eastern European3.0368
Native American2.6654
African (Black)2.42118

English also includes Welsh and Scotish; Scandanavian includes Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Finns; German also includes Austrians; Eastern European includes Russian, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Lithuanians, and those from the former Yugoslavia; Asian includes Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Indians, and "other Asians"; Hispanics, of course, can be of any race but are primarily Mexican.

Descending from Locke and Harrington, Anglos show the most support for private property, followed by Scandanavians. The rest of Europe is bunched together with moderately lower levels of enthusiasm. The Asian sample is prohibitively small, but the sub-European value is not surprising given higher self-reported levels of 'collectivism' in Asia. Native Americans fall in with their mostly Amerindian Hispanic cousins. In the spirit of MLK, blacks show the greatest opposition to unequal levels of affluence as a consequence of private property. One standard deviation is 1.22 points on the index, placing the black average one SD 'below' the English average.

Crudely put, the lighter you are, the more supportive of property rights you tend to be (and likely of individualism more generally). As the percentage of Americans of European descent shrinks, private property rights will come up against increasing political and legal pressures for increased redistribution of private resources.

Parenthetically, the male average is 3.07; the female average is 2.78.

GSS variables used: WLTHPOV, ETHNIC, HISPANIC(2-99)


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the Asian score is so low.


Laura Bolton said...

just wanted to let you know that John Bolton died this week, I saw alot of comments from you, feel free to contact me
Laura Bolton

Aki_Izayoi said...

John R. Bolton is still alive though...

Do you think the Scandinavian score would drop if they asked people in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway?