I’ve been taking a free course on statistical inference online, which mentioned the World Values Survey. For this survey, interviewers ask people about religious, political, sexual, community, and life values. I haven’t looked at whether sample size, selection, fear of interviewers, or bias may affect the results. I suspect there are some issues in that area: for instance, Kazakhs were asked if elections are fair and if officials take bribes, while Americans were not. However, it’s still a great survey to use for thinking about social values, especially if you’re already familiar with the cultures and histories involved.
Below, I’ve cherry-picked data and paraphrased liberally. “Lies, damn lies,” and all that… In other words, I’m listing a few interesting differences (e.g. 2/3 of Kazakhs think something, but only 1/2 of Americans agree). But in 500 other instances, Americans and Kazakhs agree rather closely. So please don’t cite these extracts until you look at the full data yourself!
Kazakh and American Perspectives on Life
|What’s important in life?||Kazakhstan||America|
|Family is very important||92%||91%|
|Friends are very important||48%||54%|
|vs… Friends are not so important||12%||5%|
|Work is very important||62%||36%|
|Religion is very important||22%||40%|
Kazakhs and Americans both value family strongly. Kazakhs are more willing to verbalize that work is important to life (perhaps because good careers are harder to find in a still-developing economy), while American culture leads us to say we value friends and religion just as much. As we’ll see below, religion is a more active part of family life in America.
|I think my health is…||Kazakhstan||America|
Americans are more confident in their health, and perhaps have more disposable income to spend on healthcare and food.
|Let’s teach kids at home about:||Kazakhstan||America|
The fact that Americans value teaching children about imagination and religion, while Kazakh families teach children about hard work, is not a surprise. What does surprise me is the higher priority on teaching children self-expression in Kazakhstan: perhaps this is an aspect of the way young children are cherished and openly celebrated in Kazakhstan?
|I’m an active member of a:||Kazakhstan||America|
As I’ve noted on social networks, Astana residents are less involved in civic groups than Americans; high religious participation is worrisome, especially among the young. Kazakhs clean the neighborhood (subbotniks) or attend elections when ordered to by boss or other leader, so maybe the fact that community is a duty makes it less likely for people to volunteer? I’d also be curious to see how class matches participation: when affluent Americans volunteer, middle-class people join civic groups to improve their own status. If rich Kazakhs don’t volunteer in their communities, it’s unlikely that Continue reading