Saturday, March 05, 2011

Cold War, (relatively) warm feelings

As someone who sees the future as more clannish and tribalistic than the one he grew up in, I wanted to take a look at whether or not that intuition is borne out by data both within the US and beyond its borders.

First, the home front. The following graph shows the percentage of GSS respondents saying that "most people can be trusted" (as opposed to "you can't be too careful in life"):

The always present year-to-year random fluctuations are present, but the trend is clearly downward. Despite all the happy talk about diversity, multiculturalism, a global world, and the like, as the US increasingly sees its dichotomous white-majority, black-minority demography replaced by a demographic composition that serves as a microcosm of the entire globe, the levels of trust people have for others continues its steady decline.

What about the other 95% of humanity? The World Values Survey is the best place to turn. The WVS began in 1981, but prior to 1990, it would be more aptly named The Free, First-World Values Survey. So it is during the twilight of the Soviet Union where we begin, and the years just in front of the 'Great Recession' where we end.

The following table shows the percentages of respondents, by country among the 27 that participated both times, who said most people can be trusted in 1990 and during the period of 2005-2008. The last column (by which the table is organized) shows the change in societal levels of trust during that nearly two decade period of time:

1990 (%)
1. Switzerland
2. Norway
3. Germany
4. Romania
5. Brazil
6. Sweden
7. Slovenia
8. Japan
9. Finland
10. France
11. Italy
12. Turkey
13. Argentina
14. South Korea
15. China
16. The Netherlands
17. Bulgaria
18. South Africa
19. Canada
20. Chile
21. Russia
22. India
23. United States
24. Poland
25. Great Britain
26. Spain
27. Mexico

A handful of mostly homogeneous, non-Anglophone Western European countries show increases. Everywhere else, declines in trust levels is the norm. I suspect that current trust levels are considerably lower than they were even 3-6 years ago, when the economic outlook conventionally appeared far more favorable than it does today.

I hear Dave Matthews singing, "Don't trust me, trust yourself".

GSS variables used: TRUST, YEAR


Jokah Macpherson said...

"Don't trust me, trust yourself."

I try not to do that either; I know myself too well and he's not always operating with my best interests in mind.

sykes.1 said...

Since you love correlations, you might want to correlate change in trust with some measure of immigration. Putnam at the international level.

By the way, does anyone know if he has published the actual study?

Audacious Epigone said...


The CIA factbook does have good data on net migration rates by country, but it'd be better to just know immigration numbers, as mass emigration is generally a sign of the overall crapiness of the country being departed from. Still worth taking a look at, though.

Audacious Epigone said...


Just ran the numbers. Nothing there (r-value of .06, p-value of .74).

Aragorn said...

Regarding the future of clannishness, check out this:

from tea party chain email:

--------Forwarded Message--------

From a chain email:

Russell K. Nieli recently brought to light a new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford that shows that lower-income European Americans (poor whites) are the most discriminated against group of people in college admissions.

Nieli writes: "When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed."

Get that? Not African Americans, not Mestizo Americans --- but European Americans are the most discriminated against group in college admissions.

This widespread discrimination against European Americans should be unsurprising. And immigration is making it worse, as more non-whites immigrate here their "disparate impact" status makes them prime affirmative action candidates.

All other racial groups have powers lobbying on their behalf. Blacks have the NAACP, mestizos have La Raza, Asians have the 80-20 Initiative, Indians have USINPAC, etc. What do European Americans have?

When other groups lobby on behalf of their ethnic interests and whites do nothing, whites are bound to receive the short end of the stick. And all the while this is taking place, many whites pursue the “ostrich strategy”. They stick their heads in the sand and wish it were otherwise.

Time to take your heads out of the sand, white people.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks. An inevitable consequence of the special pleading that accompanies multiculturalism in a democratic state.

Painlord2k said...

It is interesting the data about Romania and Italy.
When Romanians entered in the EU a large number of criminals moved from there to greener pastures (AKA West Europe like Italy, France, Sweden, etc.) and criminality there plummeted. They say all the criminals when left.
Now many Romanian workers are returning in Romania because the economy is improving and there is very little criminality.

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of reading much of "Bowling Alone" a short while ago.

It deals totally with this question. A ton of data, truly a data-o-phile's dream book.

It was a genuine pleasure to read, the writing was upbeat and the narrative well-weaved. I recommend it.

The conclusion, at its shallowest level, is that all forms of social capital have declined.

Dragon Horse said...

Switzerland is not homogeneous, almost 25% of the population of Switzerland is foreign in ancestry. Then again it is a stage country that people pretty much isolate themselves in their native canton, and rarely move, especially across language boundaries (although theoretically speaking everyone should speak two languages fluently, this is false, it is only true for the non-native German speaking minority in the French and Italian areas). If anything, since the 1970's Switzerland has become increasingly diverse, there have always been Germans and French, but then you had Italian immigrants, then Spanish and Portuguese, then people from the Balkans (former Yugos), Albanians, and now West Africans and also Sri Lankans...

It is also strange you did not include Brazil, obviously racially diverse (although not culturally)...has increased in trust.

Dragon Horse said...

Looking at this chart again, I'm not sure it means anything unless you also add in some variables, such as % of population foreign born or % of population that is visible minority in that nation. I would love to see a ANOVA analysis on those variables, I think you will find the correlation to be low based on looking at your numbers.

For example, trust has increased in Germany although over the last past 20 years a significant part of the German population has become foreign, maybe about 20%, but many of them are Eastern Europeans with German ancestry (which may or may not be significant) coming to Germany after the Berlin wall fell. Many Germans don't consider them 'real Germans" and they usually have noticeable accents. You have Turks, and increasing SubSahara African population, more Poles, Czechs, Russians, etc. Wiki states:

"# German citizens = (92%)[2]

* Germans of no immigrant background: (81%) 66.7 million[2]
* German citizens of immigrant background (including people of partial immigrant background.): (10%)[2]


You also have the very real social division between the Osti and Wessi (Eastern and Western Germans) which did not exist a generation ago.

Another example, Japanese have lost trust, but their increase in ethnic diversity is very marginal, mainly due to some Japanese farmers marrying Chinese women or Filipino nurses, hardly a major issue. There was an increase in Brazilian Japanese a decade ago, but that has waned and they are not even a million people, I don't believe.

Audacious Epigone said...

Dragon Horse,

Thanks for the comments.

Yes, it needs to be specified that Switzerland operates as a confederation of cantons (and of course that's what it is).

I prefer sticking to raw correlations without many variables entered on socio-cultural questions like this, because it is less prone to selection bias on my part and is more practically something I'm able to accomplish, with the caveat that it is at most suggestive.