Gene Expression

Since the post on anti-miscegenation laws got a lot of attention, I was curious about analogs in the World Values Survey. There are two such questions of interest:

Important for succesful marriage: Same ethnic background(D042)

and

Important for succesful marriage: Religious beliefs(D031)

These data are skewed toward European nations. Below the fold are data are % who assert that same ethnic background is NOT very important, or that same religious beliefs are NOT very important. I will admit that the international pattern is surprising to me.


Same Religion Not Very Important Same Ethnic Background Not Very Important
Austria 47.3
Belgium 54.7
Bulgaria 46.3 35.3
Belarus 64 71.3
Croatia 29.9 40.2
Czech Republic 68.7 65.8
Denmark 56.5 64.2
Estonia 57.3 68
Finland 45.4
France 65.2
Germany 59.9
Greece 34.4 57.2
Hungary 63.5
Iceland 48.8 60.4
Ireland 47.6 49
Italy 43.7 69
Latvia 58 67.8
Lithuania 41 56.2
Luxembourg 57.3 77.7
Malta 15 26.7
Netherlands 66.6 63.8
Poland 20.5
Portugal 35.3 56
Romania 26.4 39.6
Russia 64.3 79.1
Slovakia 48 65.2
Slovenia 46.2 58.3
Spain 48.2 58.1
Sweden 48.2
Turkey 11.8
Ukraine 49.4 76.1
Great Britain 58 56.7
Northern Ireland 37.4 49.9

One essential issue here is that “same ethnic background” and “same religious beliefs” can be interpreted differently in various contexts. Perhaps in Finland we are talking about Swedes & Finns, while most British respondents assume that salient difference would be between whites and non-whites. Additionally, in Germany perhaps the religious difference would be between Protestants and Catholics, while in France Muslims outnumber Protestants, so the assumption is that you are referring to Muslims as the partner with the overwhelming Catholic majority. Finally, in some nations such as France there is some polarization between the secular and the traditionally religious.

Let’s compare the variables against each other:

i-45e7abcd0c4b87e7a356886e96e54f3b-intmar1.png

As you can there’s a strong relationship between societies where ethnic and religious beliefs are presumed not be important. Nevertheless, you have nations such as Bulgaria where ethnic backgrounds have more weight in the international context than religion, and others such as Ukraine where religious variables loom larger. You can create a story around each of these positions, but I’ll leave it to readers.

How does the importance of shared religious beliefs relate to the importance of religion personally? Let’s plot that:

i-ee52f971d1746a60bd85ae380f3aad5a-intmar2.png

These results fit expectations; nation where religion is not important are also those where there is low emphasis on shared religious beliefs. Though in the Czech Republic so few people have strong religious beliefs that the alternative is less interreligious relationships than simply relationships between individuals who are religious and irreligious from the same cultural background.

Now how does attitude toward ethnic intermarriage relate to religiosity?

i-7a3d021c56dca855b295ceebfff02d52-intmar3.png

There’s some relationship, but it is much weaker. This again fits our expectations, as strong correlations between X and Y and Y and Z does not entail a strong correlation between X and Z.

In terms of contradicting expectations, the former Soviet Union seems a lot less racist than I had expected when it comes to this variable. That could be due to the way the question was worded, or sample representativeness issues, but it’s still something to consider when colored people who live in the West get exposed to lurid media reports of extreme bigotry in Russia.

Comments

  1. #1 Alex Besogonov
    April 26, 2009

    “In terms of contradicting expectations, the former Soviet Union seems a lot less racist than I had expected when it comes to this variable. ”

    That’s because the USSR was _very_ non-nationalistic (and Russia mostly inherited this tolerance). Also, mixed marriages were _very_ common in the USSR and are still common Russia (I’m Udmurt and my brother married a Tartar, for example). Little emphasis on religion in the USSR also helped a lot.

    Media, as usual, gives very skewed view of Russian society.

  2. #2 jay
    April 26, 2009

    Is it such a surprise that shared values, whether cultural, religious, or even political help to stabilize a marriage.

    In our efforts to confront racism there seems to be confused with a determination to deny that any manner of cultural, ethnic or religious preference has a credible significance in this most intimate relationship.

    That denial is a mistake. We have evolved prefering members of our own tribe our own group for really close companionship. That’s not evil.

  3. #3 razib
    April 26, 2009

    jay, i think you have a point. but that’s really not the point of the post, obviously, right? i’m just surveying variations in attitude, not labeling one good or bad. you basically just wanted to say what you just said, and so had to pretend as if i expressed “surprise” when i obviously didn’t (OK, to be frank, i was surprised, but i was surprised at how low the levels of endogamy preference in many societies were).

  4. #4 ogunsiron
    April 27, 2009

    razib says :
    “In terms of contradicting expectations, the former Soviet Union seems a lot less racist than I had expected when it comes to this variable. ”
    __

    What this tells me is that the Russians/former soviets are probably thinking of those nationalities and ethnicities that they’ve long been familiar with and don’t have serious current conflicts with. They might be thinking about tatar/russian or russian/ukrainian or russian/khazakh pairings.

    From pretty much everything i’ve learned and read about russia and russians so far, I’m certain that they’d be *far* less enthusiastic about russian/black marriage, for example. They’re probably also not thinking about russian/caucasian marriage either.

    It seems to me that russian racism allows wide gradations and differentiates a lot between foreign groups and they’re not the only ones whose perception of foreign groups is like that.

  5. #5 Martin Regnen
    April 27, 2009

    These data should be very useful for irritating Russia-adoring white nationalists. It seems they should be putting their faith in Malta instead, haha.

  6. #6 Jefrir
    April 27, 2009

    I was also surprised by the Russian figures. The racism definitely does exist – a friend of mine got Nazi salutes and spitting on his way to uni, and other African students said they were regularly called monkeys. A South American student was also killed not long after we left. It is, though, rather variable across the country, and the situation is generally improving. The city we were in was particularly bad and had a reputation for far right sympathies.
    It may simply be that in large parts of Russia, mixing isn’t seen as an issue because there are relatively few people of different races or religions around, so most people would never consider it as a factor.

  7. #7 Eamon
    April 27, 2009

    Coming from Northern Ireland the results from Ireland raise an important point.

    NI has Same Religion Not Very Important at 37.4% and the Republic of Ireland has 47.6%.

    However, the overwhelming majority of people in the Republic of Ireland are Catholic (approx 90%), whilst in Northern Ireland there is a Protestant-Catholic mix of about 60:40. In my mind this does raise the question of how much of the Republic’s percentage is aspirational, as opposed to what may be a grittier, but more realistic percentage from the North.

    The slightly higher percentage for Northern Ireland’s Ethnic Background is also interesting (49.9% vs. 49% for the Republic), perhaps it’s because of a greater multicultural society in the UK as a whole.

  8. #8 Paavo Ojala
    April 27, 2009

    Alex.
    USSR was not non-nationalistic. It was pan-slavic.

    And i don’t see that russians have inherited any tolerance. They may tolerate Ukrainians, because they’re basically the same, but not many russians want have anything to do with people from caucasus.

    Now a russian might be very open to date or marry a finnish person, who has different religious and ethnic backround (or so they say) but that doesn’t mean that they are very crazy about the nigerian students, caucasian muslims or chinese (who are taking over the siberia).

  9. #9 Sandgroper
    April 27, 2009

    Do you really think jay has a point? I don’t. You want to tell me what the failure rate is for marriages of, say, white Americans who marry among their own religion and political persuasion? How does that demonstrate stability?

    It doesn’t. Provided there are shared values on the really fundamental things like morality, financial responsibility and parenting, being too much alike doesn’t help to stabilise a marriage at all.

    What the data demonstrate is that in many countries, a high proportion of people understand this. So when jay says “we”, I wonder on whose behalf he is speaking. Not mine, obviously.

  10. #10 razib
    April 27, 2009

    You want to tell me what the failure rate is for marriages of, say, white Americans who marry among their own religion and political persuasion? How does that demonstrate stability?

    from what i have seen the more you have in common, the lower the divorce rate. there are many liberals or conservatives or religious or non-religious who would avoid marrying someone of the “other persuasion,” so it isn’t only in an ethnic/racial sense that this works.

  11. #11 Sandgroper
    April 27, 2009

    “from what i have seen the more you have in common, the lower the divorce rate. there are many liberals or conservatives or religious or non-religious who would avoid marrying someone of the “other persuasion,” so it isn’t only in an ethnic/racial sense that this works”

    I understand that, but my personal observation is the opposite, provided there is a good match on the fundamental issues that I mentioned. Cultural mismatch can result in external family and societal pressures, but that kind of external pressure is just as likely to drive a couple together to hold off a common enemy. People who go in for mixed marriages generally do think seriously about what it entails, including the external pressures and disapproval they will face, and make a commitment which can be stronger than the commitment taken for granted in a more homogeneous union.

    If there are some date to refer to on this, I’d appreciste being pointed to it. In my own admittedly anecdotal case, a mixed marriage from two very different cultural backgrounds, plus a mis-match on religion, and even some language difficulty, has so far resulted in 30 years of very stable marriage with no problems of any consequence, while at least half of my friends who married people like themselves ended their first marriage some time ago, and some are now on their third. But we had an excellent match on the things that really matter, like ethics, morality, financial management and the right way to raise a child, and life is never boring.

  12. #12 pconroy
    April 27, 2009

    Eamon,

    Growing up in Ireland, I am a little surprised that the Irish figure for “Same Religion Not Very Important”, is not HIGHER – but I reckon that it is partly influenced by the very recent, large number of immigrants from such groups as Gypsies and Muslims.

    A large percentage of self-identifying Irish Catholics are only nominally Catholic, and the ranks of Atheists are increasing all the time.

    People from Northern Ireland, on the other hand, seem to live in a time warp, and see everything through the lens of Protestant vs Catholic conflict – so religious intolerance is par for the course for them.

    It’s like the Irish are the Dutch, and the Northern Irish are the Afrikaners. Where one has become more accepting, the other has become more bigoted.

  13. #13 razib
    April 27, 2009

    sandgropper, quick googling suggests that the situation is more complex than i would have thought. so i will move to a position of agnosticism, though i still lean to the idea that all things equal same religion, race or age relationships probably have a better chance of success.

  14. #14 Eamon
    April 28, 2009

    PConroy,

    the immigration boom into the South dates from the late 90’s – not so recent. I’m sure there’s an effect on the SRNVI percentage there – but I’m not sure how much.

    However, seeing that the South was very mono-cultural up until that time I’d reckon that a large percentage of the older population would see the same religious background as being very important.

    As for the point about ‘nominal Catholics’ – they will still posses a Catholic religious background which will influence their worldview.

    People from Northern Ireland, on the other hand, seem to live in a time warp, and see everything through the lens of Protestant vs Catholic conflict – so religious intolerance is par for the course for them.

    That a pretty broad generalisation, and pretty insulting too.

    It’s like the Irish are the Dutch, and the Northern Irish are the Afrikaners. Where one has become more accepting, the other has become more bigoted.

    If your speeping statement is correct, then why was an authorised Northern Unionist march in Dublin in 2006 attacked by a baying mob of Southern Republicans? Very accepting!

    Eamon, from Northern Ireland

  15. #15 jay
    April 28, 2009

    Sorry if my comment seemed a bit edgy. I actually find your take on things interesting, though sometimes your titles might bring different associations.

    I have encountered people who proclaim that a person is racist (in an evil sense) if their dating history was not fully ‘balanced’. The same goes for religion, as an atheist I would be somewhat reticent to become involved with someone of strong religious bent, so I certainly cannot fault someone for preferring to stick to someone of their own faith.

    Principles of non discrimination are important in public policy and commercial transactions (jobs, renting homes etc). Privately however we are a complex stew of emotions and preferrences.

  16. #16 thebob.bob
    April 28, 2009

    Interfaith, interracial and intercultural marriage should be encouraged. Mankind’s only hope is to maximize the gene pool. Promote heterozygosity. We can’t know what environment we’ll need to survive in in the future. We do know thgat we’ll have a better chance if we use all the genetic diversity that we have.

  17. #17 diana
    April 28, 2009

    “We have evolved prefering members of our own tribe our own group for really close companionship”

    Like a lot of Ev-psych, this has become conventional wisdom without being subjected to much scrutiny.

    I’m w/Sandgroper here. Truisms are so satisfyingly true – except when they aren’t.

    We all agree that shared values (as opposed to mere interests, which are often confused with) are important. In the modern world where divorce is possible without shared values a marriage will end. Anecdotally, take a look at Mel and Robyn Gibson.* Ultimately, they didn’t really share values. Robyn was a sober, faithful and sane person, while Mel was a screaming drunken lunatic. Mel didn’t put much value on temperate behavior and not humiliating his wife in public.

    Getting back to Ev-Psych and making sweeping generalizations, when in history did average people have a choice as to whom they were going to marry? I’m not talking about arranged alliances here, although that is quite important, I’m simply talking about how thousands of pre-historic generations of humans evolved. You lived near a water source, ate the plants and animals and bugs that lived in the water source or the animals that came to it to drink, and you mated with whoever was around. I think that all this choice stuff, and for that matter the survival of the prettiest stuff, comes way later, and is an aristocratic preference.

    I’m getting off the point here, so I’ll stop. I just think that making a claim and saying, “it’s genetic” doesn’t cut it with me. We don’t know the whole story. You could say from my capsule characterization of human evolution that we evolved a “love the one you’re with” gene. You could also say we evolved a “let’s find some fresh blood” gene. Both are plausible.

    A final relationship note, this one about age: I have read, sorry no cites, that it helps a relationship for a man to be 6 – 9 years older than the woman. I’m not saying this because I wish it were so. In fact I wish it weren’t. But it, uh, sounds kind of right to me. The reason that I’ve read is that 6 – 9 years removes the element of sibling rivalry from the relationship. (More than 9 years and you get into creepy territory.)

    Too much similarity in a couple leads to an early etiolation of the relationship**. There’s always a bit of brother and sister to a heterosexual relationship. When a husband is 6 – 9 years older than the wife, he’s the adored older brother, not the punk who’s always getting more attention.

    *couldn’t resist.

    **see under: gay couples. Clone couples break up real quick.

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