Thursday, July 12, 2007

Americanness according to the World Values Survey: Readers and I listed in an earlier post those values that we thought of as elements of "Americanness," but what do the data tell us? I looked at responses of representative samples of people from countries all around the globe to more than 300 hundred questions from the World Values Survey. Sample sizes range from around a dozen to about 50 countries, and I included the question in the list below if America ranked in either the top 3 or the bottom 3:

Top 3

Belongs to a religious organization
Belongs to an educational, cultural, art, or music organization
Belongs to an organization that does youth work
Belongs to a women's group
Does voluntary work for a religious organization
Does voluntary work for educational, cultural, art, or music organization
Does unpaid work for an environmental group
Does voluntary work for a group that does youth work
Does voluntary work for a women's group
Does voluntary work for organization concerned with health
Does voluntary work out of compassion for those in need
Does voluntary work to give something back

Felt proud in the past few weeks because of a compliment about behavior
Feel like you have control over how your life turns out
People are poor out of laziness and lack of will power
Proud of work
I work because I have to; I wouldn't if I didn't have to
The owners should run the business or appoint managers
If boss and I disagree, I should follow the boss

Believes in the soul
Believes in the devil
Believes in hell
Believes there is a personal God
Partner shares religious, moral, social, and sexual attitudes
Faithfulness is important for a successful marriage
It is important that children learn religious faith at home

Personal freedom is more important than equality
Has confidence in the political system
Proud of my country because of scientific achievements
Proud of country
Trusts neighboring countries

Bottom 3

Does voluntary work because of extra time and wanted to do something worthwhile
Does volunteer work to meet people

Doesn't want Jews for neighbors

When jobs are scarce, people should be forced to retire
When jobs are scare, preference should be given to own nationality over immigrants

A child need both a mother and a father
A woman needs a child to be fulfilled

Government ownership of business and industry should be increased
The state should take more responsibility to ensure that everyone is provided for
Success is a matter of luck and connections
If an unjust law were passed, I could do nothing about it

Okay, let's attempt a description of what makes the U.S. distinctive in terms values. Americans value volunteer work, and they do it out of compassion and because they want to return the favor done for them.

Americans feels thay have control over their lives, and they can change things. If someone is poor, it's his own fault.

Americans are very proud of their work, but strangely wouldn't do it if they didn't need to make a living. They believe in top-down business organization.

They identify with a religion, they are theists, and they believe religion is important for children.

The country is feminist.

Americans are very proud of their country; they believe in personal freedom over equality; they have faith in the political system; and they trust neighboring countries. They are tolerant and pro-immigration. They are anti-socialist.

Let's reduce that to a list like the one before:

Americanness based on the World Values Survey

belief in volunteerism
belief in free will
hierarchical at work

Keep in mind that, according to these data, the United States is somewhere in the middle on more than 80% of the questions asked. These questions cover just about anything you can think of on politics/government, religion, family, work--all the stuff sociologists are interested in.

The next step is to see if immigrants to the U.S. are likely to change these values. Any guesses which country I'll look at next?


  1. dearieme4:32 AM

    Your conclusions seem to be consistent with the old view that Americans are hen-pecked conformists.

  2. Hooray for hen-pecked conformism!

  3. Mexico. Duh.


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