in a post last year, i showed that eastern europeans score very low on “civicness” — i.e. membership in voluntary organizations — at least according to data from the world values survey, 2005-2008. out of the slavic nations, poland (and moldova) scored above the eastern european average, but still well below anglos:

szopeno suggests that this low civic spirit is related to the after effects of living under totalitarian communist regimes:

“In Poland, most of lawyers, doctors, enterpreneurs were executed by nazis, and the rest was killed/deported by soviets. In USSR for generations all those, who were individualistic were executed, escaped to the west etc…. Most never returned…. You have a generations of living in system, were everyone could be your enemy, when you couldn’t talk freely with strangers, when state was your enemy. This had profound effects on psychology….”

i think the first part there — a nation losing its best and brightest — will definitely have a negative effect on society, possibly for quite a few generations. but i don’t really buy that there would be long-lasting effects on a nation’s psyche (unless there are some sorts of epigenetic effects of living in stressful circumstances 24/7 for decades?). i think there’s something deeper going on wrt “civicness.” i have a hard time believing that it’s just a coincidence that regions as diverse as the arab world and eastern europe and spain and italy — all places with a long history of you-know-what — have low scores on civicness. i think there’s something biological going on.

szopeno also suggested that “civicness” might be different in eastern germany than in western since the population in the east was under a totalitarian regime for so long. so, i’ve taken a closer look at “civicness” in west and east germany and in poland.

what i’ve done is taken an average of the percentages replying “belong” (as opposed to “not mentioned”) for the following questions from the world values survey, 1999:

Please look carefully at the following list of voluntary organisations and activities and say…which, if any, do you belong to?

- Social welfare services for elderly, handicapped or deprived people
- Religious or church organisations
- Education, arts, music or cultural activities
- Labor unions
- Political parties or groups
- Local community action on issues like poverty, employment, housing, racial equality
- Third world development or human rights
- Conservation, environment, animal rights groups
- Professional associations
- Youth work (e.g. scouts, guides, youth clubs etc.)
- Sports or recreation
- Women’s groups
- Peace movement
- Voluntary organisations concerned with health
- Other

i’ve used the ’99 survey because it breaks down the responses by region, whereas the later surveys unfortunately do not. for germany and poland, the data are broken down by the sixteen german länder and the sixteen polish voivodeships. the questions are slightly different from the 2005-2008 wave, but some of them are the same. in my previous post, though, i considered “active” members; the 1999 wave options were basically just member or not member.

note that some of the sample sizes for some of the regions are rather small. i should’ve cleaned those out, but didn’t have (make!) the time right now, so consider this post a rough draft!

i’ve plotted the averages against the longitudes of each region (acquired from wikipedia’s geohack) with the idea that both outbreeding and the presence of medieval manorialism (which helped to break down clans and tribes in europe) have a longer history in western europe than in the east, and due to the spread of these practices from west to east across northern europe, i’d expect to find more “civicness” in western europe than in the east, perhaps moving along some sort of gradient from west to east. indeed, i found a negative correlation of 0.76 (-0.76) between membership in a voluntary organization (“civicness”) and longitude (west to east). here is a nifty chart of that (click on image for LARGER version) — the blue squares indicate german länder, the red squares indicate german länder that used to be a part of east germany, and the pink squares indicate polish voivodeships:

so, at least across germany-poland, there is a general west-to-east decrease in civicness.

however, when i checked for correlations between civicness and longitude within each of the countries, while i found a negative 0.66 (-0.66) correlation in germany, there was only a negative 0.39 (-0.39) correlation in poland. so, uncivicness seems to be present across the board in poland, but runs from west-to-east in germany.

hmmmm. those results — less civicness in east germany and across the board in poland — could back up szopeno’s idea of communism’s lingering effects on civic attitudes. maybe he’s right! otoh, manorialism and outbreeding reached eastern germany and poland comparatively late (late medieval period at the earliest for poland) and poland sits astride the hajnal line, so maybe i’m right! (^_^)

never fear! i’ll be looking more at mating patterns and family types in poland (and eastern europe) — and there are other sources on “civicness” in poland to be looked at — so stay tuned!

btw, that blue dot with the 1% (0.93%) average responding that they were members of some sort of voluntary organization? that’s hamburg. the number of samples was on the low side for hamburg, but if the survey results are at all correct, the only “odd” thing i can think of regarding the city is that it is a rather vibrant one. i suspect it might be the low numbers, though. the highest scorer — pretty much as far to the west as you can get in germany — was saarland with nearly one in ten saying that they belonged to some sort of voluntary organization.

and, oh. i also checked for any correlation between “civicness” and latitude. didn’t find anything in germany (-0.39) — but i got an almost perfect uncorrelation for poland (-0.01)! never saw such an uncorrelation before. cool! (^_^)

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii

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