Friday, August 21, 2015

Clannishness by ancestry

See Ed West (via the chickadee), on the English not being a very family-oriented people in contrast with Middle Easterners and North Africans on the family-oriented other end of the spectrum and Mediterranean peoples somewhere in between. He subsequently considers the advantages societies with weak family connections enjoy. I'm not sure from the excerpt if he discusses the disadvantages such societies face, like pathological altruism and low fertility rates.

Turns out the GSS has a potentially relevant question from 2002 in which respondents were asked how often they'd been in contact with a cousin in the past four weeks.

Excluding those who did not have any living cousins, I created a simple index of extended family closeness (EFC), by self-reported ethnicity, by giving 2 points for the percentages of respondents who had been in contact with a cousin more than twice in over the last four weeks, 1 point for the percentages who had been in contact once or twice over the same period of time, and no points for the percentages who had no contact with a cousin. Thus the higher the score, the closer the extended family (clannish) ties tend to be. Because the question was only asked in a single iteration of the survey, sample sizes by ethnicity are pretty small. Only responses for ethnicities with at least 25 respondents are included here. The data are suggestive, not statistically significant, so make of them what you will:

American Indian94.9
"American" only88.8

Given the small sample sizes and inherent imprecision of self-described ethnicity, these results pass the smell test. Excepting those of Scottish descent--maybe these are all low-landers!--the rank ordering is pretty close to what I would've expected it to be. Additionally, I'd have guessed the English/Welsh and French rankings would be flipped and that "Americans" would have come in between Italians and Irish. Many of those who self-identify as "American" are what we might also refer to as "Scotch-Irish" [edit: Only 39% are white while 52% are black and 3% are Hispanic, so the black element is far more explanatory than the potential Scotch-Irish element here, thanks M], so if we plug them roughly into the Irish and Scottish figures, the table has even more stereotypical validity.

GSS variables used: COUSINS(1-3), ETHNIC(1,8,10,11,14,15,17,24,30,97)


M said...

There are some differences in demographic transition as well, where you'd think the people from persistently large families would be more likely to have cousins (less likely their mother or father was an only child). So you might find some slope in this variable associated to that (and associated variables like intelligence). Strength of family feeling adjusted for family size seems tougher to assess.

On the American Only grouping that is a weird one as well, as if you look by race, they're predominantly Afram and Hispanic (I think around 60-70%?) *not* White southerners as they're often assumed to be.

M said...

There's also the aspect of whether people are generally more sociable in some groups than others. You can imagine a more extroverted group might have more contact with their cousins... but... they have more contact with anyone.

Particularly, some communities foster general community get-togethers more often than not. If Blacks or Hispanics all tend to go to church or parties quite often, then they might bump into cousins more often. Also not really clannishness.

So looking at contact with cousins net of general sociability with others might be more useful than on its own.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks, I didn't realize that over half of respondents who identify as "American" only are black.

All good points, though the samples just aren't large enough to use the variable in tandem with anything else in the GSS.

M said...

Yeah, it surprised me as well, because of the idea that, because the "American Only" grouping peaks in the South, where a lot of old settlement is, its got to be linked to a group of Scotch-Irish and English descendant White Americans who have such strong roots they only identify that way.

And those people exist.

But then when you look at the data you realise that those people *would*, logically, be outnumbered be the DeShawn Washingtons who go "Hey man, I got nothing to do with Africa. American only.". And then when you also factor in the Mexicans who just want to start over away from Mexico and be American only, and the fact that a fair few White ethnics probably have a complicated stew of ancestry... then you get a more realistic sense of the numbers.
tldr; it's important for comparisons anyway, than seeing American Only as really a single ethnic group or close to it.

Same way when you consider the White Southerners, they look kind of bad on some variables - education, wordsum, income - but then you factor in the high levels of ethnic Mexicans using the White label in the South and also folk who identify as ethnic American Indians. While White Southerners of European ancestry only are basically onvergent with Midwesterners of the same ancestry on Wordsum, and overtake them on education and income (although the Midwesterners are better on some social indicators, have some hints of more egalitarianism in the culture). Even if White Southerners still lag the coasts and mountain region on these. But that's another tangent.

Good to know you don't think I'm nuts on the other links, shame those other things aren't really testable with what the GSS has.

JayMan said...

NW Europeans have the highest fertility rates of all the high-IQ (>95) peoples – higher than all the clannish peoples in that category.

The results look right. The European Social Survey might be more useful for this purpose, though.

sclop said...

I came across this is in my Family Law textbook, and thought it was apropos:

"While research in many countries has demonstrated that extensive kinship networks still exist and can be quite important even in modernized, urbanized industrial societies- more especially in some sectors than in others- it nevertheless seems generally true that one does not any more simply 'have' relatives; rather one decides with whom one will have contact, so that kin relationships can be compared to those among friends...Since 1964, little is presumed from the mere existence of a family tie, and the possibly greater significance of non-familial ties in individual cases is recognized."

anon said...

i bet family size is key wasp scotts no kids anymore

Audacious Epigone said...


That seems to characterize WEIRDO countries well.

But the world is becoming less WEIRDO, not more so.