Saturday, September 21, 2019

Do Western populations place more value on self-sacrificing spousal love?

I'm currently reading the brand new book by Kevin MacDonald titled Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition.  I don't always agree with him, but I'm interested in anyone with big balls and interesting ideas.

According to MacDonald, Western populations evolved to value self-sacrificing love in prospective mates in order to cement close family environments and paternal investment in harsh northern environments.  Since this is an element of a slow life-history strategy, East Asians should value this trait as well, while blacks should be shifted more toward short-term mating strategies.

The General Social Survey (GSS) asked American respondents how much they agree with four statements about loving one's partner with a deep, devoted, self-sacrificing type of love.  I summed the answers to the four questions to create a scale (alpha coefficient = .83).  (It's funny: as I write this, I'm hearing these lyrics on YouTube: "I dried your tears of pain, babe, A million times for you, I'd sell my soul for you babe, For money to burn with you, I'd give you all, and have none, babe.")

Next, I calculated the mean score for ethnic/racial groups with at least 20 respondents (sample size = 1,040).  Here are the results:

Mean Love Score

Germans   13.98
Southern Europeans   13.77
American Indians  13.60
Mexicans   13.58
Italians  13.46
English/Welsh   13.38
Polish  13.38

Total Sample  13.37

Irish  13.32
Scottish  13.21
Scandinavians  13.08  
East Asians  12.34
Blacks   11.84

Americans of German descent and southern Europeans are at the top of the list, while East Asians and blacks are at the bottom.  The gap between Germans and blacks is seven-tenths of a standard deviation, a large difference.

Consistent with MacDonald's prediction, whites are in the top spot, and blacks are last.  He doesn't focus on East Asians, but he relies on life-history theory, and East Asians should fit the "slow" strategy of high family investment. 

The results seem somewhat cultural.  I noticed that not only southern Europeans but Latin Americans (many nationalities were too small to make the list) tend to score high.  This is consistent with the stereotype of the romantic Latin. 


  1. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Problem with this is variation in personality and differences in how certain people speak and behave. Scandinavians and East Asians tend to be introverted and modest. While Southern Europeans tend to be more extroverted, expressive, boastful, etc.

  2. Yes, I agree that there are real problems measuring cross-ethnic differences in personality. It's probably measured best with behavior.

  3. Since the GSS has longitudinal data stretching across much of the sexual revolution, it really is obligatory to include the time series on sexual data like this.

  4. This set of questions was only asked in 2004, but you're right that sexual behavior data is available for many years.

    1. That makes me wonder what their process is for selecting the set of questions over time. It seems one must have some idea of which variables are most causal so as to place greater emphasis (sampling size and frequency) on them along side of the obvious measures of value such as murder rates, life expectancy etc.


Is skin tone correlated with job prestige?

The General Social Survey rated the skin darkness of a sample of black Americans, ranging from "very dark brown" to "very lig...