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05/16/2013

Are countries that are better off, more or less tolerant about race?

Racism-map3
A map based on data from from the World Values Survey composed by The Washington Post.

 A study published by a pair of Swedish economists in the scholarly publication Kyklos, has kicked up quite a stir on the Internet, trying to determine whether economically better-off nations are more racially tolerant.

Or not.

Well, that’s the scholarly language.

We in the media are a little more plain-spoken.

What we want to know is: who’s racist out there?

To help the Swedes in their study, they consulted the respected World Values Survey, a global network of research scientists from more than 100 countries who’ve been polling people around the world about values since 1981.

Turns out the survey had just the kind of question they were looking for:  Question A124_02 which asked respondents whether they’d prefer not to have “people of a different race” as neighbours.

The best illustration of the survey’s findings was published by the Washington Post using a kind of red states – blue states theme, blue being the most tolerant countries, and red the least (see above).

Some of the findings surprised: more than 70 per cent of respondents in Hong Kong as well as Bangladesh said they definitely did not want to have neighbours of a different race.

In Jordan 51.4 per cent and in India 43.5 per cent also said they wouldn’t tolerate neighbours of a different race.

The most tolerant? Sweden, where just 1.4 per cent of respondents said they would object, followed by Argentina, and Trinidad and Tobago , tied at 2 per cent, Europe’s tiny Andorra in third place at 2.5 and in fourth place Canada at 2.9 per cent.

The United States was fifth at 3.8 per cent, followed by Uruguay at 3.9 and New Zealand with 4.1 per cent.
Great Britain stood 12th. But that didn’t prevent some British headline writers from trumpeting the Britons as champions. Whatever.

The long and short of the Swedish economists’ study? It turns out there is no co-relation between economics and racial tolerance.

However they did discover that there does appear to be one between better off nations and a greater tolerance for homosexuality.

Bill Schiller has held bureau postings for the Star in Johannesburg, Berlin, London and Beijing. He is a NNA and Amnesty International Award winner, and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the class of '06. Follow him on Twitter @wschiller

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