Thursday, May 16, 2013

Comparative Xenophobia, part I

Yesterday, the Washington Post put up this map based on World Values data and other information:

The variable is "share that answered 'people of another race' when asked to pick from groups of people they would not want as neighbors."  This makes it appear that India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Nigeria are the most racist countries.  The article mentions a heap of appropriate caveats.  Mine is this: I could not find this question in the dataset quickly as the dataset is vast.*  Heaps and heaps of variables.  So, I am going to be guessing a bit here, but as a xenophobia kind of guy, I have a few thoughts:
Max Fisher, who wrote the WashPo piece responded to my tweets with more info about the data, so I may explore it further later today or tomorrow, depending on if I need to be distracted from the stuff that has actual deadlines.  Yet more proof that twitter rocks, as I would never have called up Fisher nor would have he have responded this quickly to a semi-random question.  
  • The first thing is that the question is not so much whether people are more or less tolerant of different races but that among the various factors that might shape one's intolerance towards neighbors, race is the most cited.  It may be that a place is very racist but is even more homophobic or sectarian or whatever.  There are are many ways to hate or to target intolerance, so it may just be that a particularly hateful place is just somewhat more intolerant of groups who are distinct by a cleavage other than race.
  • Second, in some places, when one is asked this question, they may think of a single race, perhaps the Vietnamese think of the Chinese but not of other races.  So, it may not be that the people are very racist in general--they just hate one group that is defined by race.
  • Third, living nearby is a moderate test of the question of tolerance.  Can you work with group x? Can be friends?  Can have in the family?  Oh, yes, that is a tougher test of tolerance.  Check out the figure of a series of questions asked of Romanians:

Institutul pentru Politici Publica (Institute on Public Policy). 2003. Intoleranţă, Discriminare Autoritarism: În Opinia Publică (Intolerance, Discrimination and Authoritarianism in Public Opinion), Bucharest: Institute on Public Policy.  I had translation help and then used this figure in my book with Bill Ayres.

What this illustrates is there are varying degrees of tolerance.  And I wonder from looking at the WashPo infographic whether we would have seen very different results if the question had been friends/family rather than live nearby.  Still, given that the US did well on this despite much segregration, perhaps this question is a suitable test.

The larger point is that hate is a many, uh, splendored thing.  Ok, not so splendored.  But it is complex, so we cannot just look at it and say that Indians are the most racist folks.  Race, as we have been reminded in the past week thanks to a particularly problematic dissertation, is a very fuzzy thing.  So the WashPo graphic is interesting and provocative but not conclusive.

I will consider the second part of the article, the relationship between economic freedom and various kinds of tolerance, later (today or tomorrow).



Tony said...

The data was inverted for both Hong Kong and Bangladesh. It may have been for other countries too.

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical.

This survey was conducted over the period of 1982 - 2006. In the US over that period, 8106 households were polled. The average population between 1982 - 2006 in the US was 271 182 638 (271 million), which means of the entire registered population of the US, 0.002989% were polled.

If one would like to assume that 0.002 % of the US population speak for the entire population, then this poll can be believed.

For Jordan which seems to have the worst rating, the two waves of polls occurred in 2000 & 2007, and polled a total of 2 422 households out of a registered population estimate of 5.2 million - meaning 0.04657 % of the population were polled.

CCCCppppCCppp said...

In the US, where discrimination in housing is illegal, who's going to trust a pollster enough to advocate it?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find the data on World Values Study site either and I've spent ages. Are you able to tell a random person which question it was?

H4ckRn00b said...

What this article shows is how incredibly shallow and prejudiced Americans are. Just because racism is how they see the world, they think that racism is the most important way to hate. In Western Europe, with N-Ireland as the extreme, it was Catholic vs Protestant. In Norway and Finland, it was important to not be Swedish, as well as not be Saami, the Scandinavian "eskimoes" aka Lap people.

In India, it would be more important to ask about the caste, instead of race. Some countries are so homogenic, they hardly have a concept of race.

This WaPo article was a weird, slightly nauseating self congratulatory article for Americans who now seem to think their level of intolerance is the same as Canada, Germany, etc. Gimme a break.
Anybody who ever has been in those countries knows that surely of all western nations, America is the most racist.