Sunday, September 29, 2013

Which countries are neighbors?

Cultural Map - World Values Survey
Looking for information about a specific country?  It’s reasonably easy to assemble statistics about almost any country in the world. Do a Google search and you’ll find pages and pages of links.  In 0.24 seconds a search for statistics for Ghana yielded 113,000,000 results. Overwhelming.  

You may already have your favorite sources for basic information and statistics.  Wikipedia or the World Bank? (, CIA’s World Factbook or EconStats ( from the International Monetary Fund.  The list is long.

But when you want to know more about a country than it’s GDP, physical size, or literacy level where do you go?  One lesser known but fascinating source the World Values Survey.  (  Creators of the unusual world map shown above.

According to their site the survey is “a global research project that explores people’s value and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have."   The survey is carried out by a "worldwide network of social scientists that, since 1981, have conducted representative national surveys in almost 100 countries. The WVS is the only source of empirical data on attitudes covering a majority of the world’s population.” 
For me one particularly fascinating result of the surveys is the Cultural Map shown here.  Countries are located on this map based on the similarities of their values, culture, using cultural dimensions as defined by the WVS researchers.These social scientist assert that there are two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation  1) Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and 2) Survival values versus Self-expression values.

Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.  Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority.  Survival values relate to economic and physical security while Self-expression emphasizes well-being and quality of life.

The global cultural map illustrates where countries fall today in relation to these dimensions through 2009.  If drawn today, you might see some change.  Societies evolve.  Some become more industrialized.  Other move from an industrial base to becoming a knowledge society.   

How will the next version of the map look?  The WVS will answer that question after they complete the survey now underway that will be completed in 2014.
Where is your country on the current map and where will it be?  Will its neighbors, sharing similar values the same as they are on the current map?

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