Friday, August 18, 2006

Wealthy countries are the most trusting: Using the World Values Survey, I plan to develop a "personality" profile of regions around the world, much as I have been doing with American ethnic groups. As a first step, let's look at a country's level of cynicism. People all around the world were asked if most people try to take advantage of you: others were asked if it's true that you can't be too careful with people. Here are the results, from most to least cynical:

Percent saying most people try to take advantage of you
Moldova 83.3
Turkey 81.4
Peru 73.0
Morocco 71.4
Chile 70.9
Nigeria 70.8
Bosnia/Herzegovina 70.7
Mexico 69.8
Macedonia 69.5
Uganda 69.7
Venezuela 67.5
South Africa 67.4
Japan 66.4
Algeria 66.4
Pakistan 65.8
Puerto Rico 62.2
Bangladesh 61.6
Jordan 61.4
Argentina 60.6
India 59.5
Albania 57.5
Kyrgyzstan 55.4
Korea 54.4
Tanzania 52.7
Saudi Arabia 51.3
Singapore 51.0
Egypt 50.9
Spain 50.5
Iraq 43.5
USA 38.2
Iran 34.1
Canada 33.2
Indonesia 32.4
Vietnam 27.4
China 20.4
Sweden 12.6

Percent saying you can't be too careful with people
Brazil 97.2
Peru 95.0
Philippines 94.5
Puerto Rico 93.9
Turkey 93.5
Macedonia 91.8
Colombia 89.6
El Salvador 85.4
Slovenia 84.4
Argentina 82.5
Nigeria 82.3
Poland 82.1
South Africa 81.8
Georgia 81.3
Romania 81.3
Azerbaijan 79.5
Pakistan 79.4
Bangladesh 79.1
Estonia 78.5
Chile 78.1
Lithuania 78.1
Uruguay 77.9
Moldova 77.8
Hungary 77.3
Russia 76.1
Belarus 75.9
Armenia 75.3
Latvia 75.3
East Germany 75.1
Croatia 74.8
Dominican Republic 73.4
Albania 73.1
Slovakia 73.0
Bosnia and Herzegovina 71.7
Czech Republic 71.5
Bulgaria 71.4
Spain 70.2
Serbia 70.2
Korea 69.7
Great Britain 69.0
Ukraine 69.0
Mexico 68.8
Montenegro 67.7
USA 64.4
India 62.1
Australia 60.1
Switzerland 59.0
West Germany 58.2
Japan 54.0
Finland 51.2
New Zealand 50.8
China 47.7
Sweden 40.3

I see a few patterns here: Developed countries are the most trusting. China, however, is an example of a trusting, less developed nation. Other Asian countries also tend to be less cynical (the Philippines being a strong exception). As a group, Latin American countries are cynical, which contradicts my image of the gregarious Hispanic. Muslim, Eastern European, and Sub-Saharan African countries are on the cynical side (Iraq and Iran are important exceptions).

The explanation of these patterns is not clear, but attitudes may in some degree reflect experience. For example, a country like Sweden is an orderly, honest society, so living there inspires faith in human nature. A history of government corruption might be part of the story. Steve Sailer argues that high rates of cousin marriage create tightly-knit clans who are suspicious of each other, which might explain some of the Muslim cases. Do you see a connection between ethnic diversity and mistrust? I'm not sure. America seems to be on the less trustful end of wealthy countries. I plan to build a data set, so I can calculate correlations between variables like these.


  1. No mention of Fukuyama!? The man has fallen on hard times. Recent events have made "End of History" look silly and Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" correct, and now he doesn't even fit well with his old neoconservative crowd. I think in his "Trust" book he contrasted his own Japanese people as a high-trust culture with supposedly low-trust Chinese. Weber was likely an influence, but changing times make Weber's analysis look similarly inapt.

  2. I wonder how precise is the translation of these questions into each language. Most of the patterns fit pretty well with objective evidence and subjective observations, but then some don't, like Japan being just as distrusting as South Africa. Here are two countries with wildly different violent crime rates. Perhaps the translations of the questions weren't quite the same?

  3. Steve: I would be surprised if accurate translation was never an issue. One thing I will do is build a data set, and then analyze correlations among related questions to see more clearly what is being captured. Perhaps the "can't be too careful" question translates better because it puts S. Africa almost 30 points less trusting than Japan.


Does IQ do a better job of predicting income among younger or older adults?

We know that IQ only has a moderate correlation with income, and it looks like much of this is due to the fact that intelligent people are v...