Friday, January 19, 2007

The Sunny Scand and the Morose Muscovite: Steve Sailer writes about how Dr. Lionel Jeffries might be onto something when he calls Africans "Sun People" and Europeans "Ice People": "[T]here seems to be some sort of correlation between gloomy, cold weather and gloomy, cold personalities, just like there is between sunny, warm weather and sunny, warm personalities."

When I read Jeffries, I thought he made a lot of sense, although it was clear he meant it as an insult to whites. But the World Values Survey gives us little reason to see northern Europeans as gloomy. I've got the book in front of me of the data from the early 90s, and the picture that emerges is of an optimistic, happy, and friendly people. Look how often northern European countries are in the top 5 (out of around 40 countries):

Percent ever feeling on top of the world in past few weeks (no pun intended)
1. Sweden 77
2. Turkey 73
3. Denmark 64
4. Iceland 63
5. Norway 59

Percent ever feeling depressed in past few weeks
38. Belgium 14
39. Slovenia 13
40. Sweden 10
41. Iceland 7
42. Switzerland 7

Percent ever feeling that things were going their way
1. Iceland 84
2. Turkey 76
3. Sweden 73
4. USA 72
5. Canada 70

Percent feeling satisfied with life as a whole
1. Denmark 86
2. Switzerland 86
3. Netherlands 85
4. Iceland 85
5. Canada 84

Percent saying they are very happy
1. Netherlands 48
2. Ireland 44
3. Denmark 43
4. USA 41
5. Iceland 41

Percent saying friends are very important
1. Sweden 69
2. Norway 68
3. Netherlands 63
4. Brazil 57
5. Turkey 55

Percent belonging to a sports/recreational group
1. Netherlands 43
2. Denmark 34
3. Norway 33
4. W. Germany 32
5. Sweden 32

I won't give you numbers here (since I've hit you over the head already) but trust me, it's the Eastern Europeans who are the Ice People. The two regions are polar opposites (no pun intended). The two predominantly black countries--Nigeria and South Africa (Brazil is very mixed)--never break the top 7, and they usually fall somewhere in the middle. And the General Social Survey shows that American whites are significantly happier than their black counterparts. So the picture given to us by surveys anyway is of the Sunny Scand and the Morose Muscovite.

It might be that the good mood felt by the northerners is quieter, not shown in such a demonstrative way as with blacks. I wish I had a more northern example, but I knew an old Dutch immigrant very well. Old men are often grumpy, but I never saw this guy when he wasn't happy, but it was so subtle, you might call it just calm.

But what about suicide rates? Aren't they high in the North? Actually, they're more toward the middle (Finland is higher). Once again, Eastern Europe towers over the rest. And we must keep in mind that suicide is very extreme, and outliers don't necessarily tell us where the mean is.


agnostic said...

Another complication is that positive and negative feelings / emotional states are not poles of the same continuum -- they are orthogonal vectors, the positive feelings increasing with higher Extraversion, and negative ones increasing with higher Neuroticism. If you score highly on both, people will perceive you as in the same class as manic-depressives -- happy and outgoing lots of the time, but also insecure and depressed often as well. They correspond to the "choleric" category in the "four humors" typology: hot-headed.

agnostic said...

OT, but could I ask what the sample size was for a previous post that found little change in assortative mating for education level?

Ron Guhname said...

Agnostic: I don't think small sample size is any problem on that analysis. They asked 25,490 people about the education of their spouses.

agnostic said...

Cool. I figured it wasn't small, but I just wanted to be able to give people a number when I tell them about it. Thanks!