trust in the u.s. by generation

t.greer, in discussing the relationship between trust and diversity in the u.s. and putnam’s Bowling Alone and E Pluribus Unum [pdf], said in a comment yesterday:

“As Putnam notes there, most of the change we are talking about here is generational – that is to say, the problem is not that people became less trusting over time, but that the next generation down the line does not inherit the trust of their parents. The ‘greatest generation’s’ ability to trust did not decrease as the number of immigrants increased, or as America desegregated, or anything like that. They went to their graves with about as much as trust and social solidarity as they had back in the 40s.”

i thought i’d check that, so i dove into the gss today. here’s what i found when i looked by generation (i used the dates for generations on wikipedia) at who replied that people CAN be trusted [TRUST] for the years 1972, 1980, 1990, and 2000 [click on chart for LARGER view]:

gss - people can be trusted - by generation

so, while it appears to be true that both the baby boomers and generation x did start off with much less trust in their fellow humans than either the greatest generation or the silent generation, the members of both the greatest and silent generations have, indeed, lost a good deal of faith in their fellow americans. the greatest generation’s trust doesn’t seem to have dropped until round about 2000 when they would’ve been aged 76+, but the silent generation went all cyncial by 1990 when they were between ages 26 and 44 45 and 65 (oops! sorry).

trust is in decline in america, and it’s NOT just a generational thing. and the first dip that we can pick up here in the gss happened sometime in the ’90s.
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gss parameters used: TRUST, YEAR, and AGE OF RESPONDENT

Generation X – 1990 – n=109
Generation X – 2000 – n=552
Baby Boomers – 1972 – n=283
Baby Boomers – 1980 – n=543
Baby Boomers – 1990 – n=400
Baby Boomers – 2000 – n=754
Silent Generation – 1972 – n=609
Silent Generation – 1980 – n=458
Silent Generation – 1990 – n=221
Silent Generation – 2000 – n=399
Greatest Generation – 1972 – n=571
Greatest Generation – 1980 – n=410
Greatest Generation – 1990 – n=168
Greatest Generation – 2000 – n=129
Lost Generation – 1972 – n=129
Lost Generation – 1980 – n-41
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previously: putnam’s paradise and “the community-diversity dialectic” and the “happiest, healthiest” community in the u.s. and on being trusting

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becoming anglo-saxon

update 10/17: some extra notes in the comments about the gss data here and here. thanks for the thought-filled comments, guys! (^_^)
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bennett and lotus (in America 3.0) have the very right idea that anglo-saxons have been living in absolute nuclear families and behaving very “anglo-saxony” for centuries, but they’ve got, imho, the very wrong idea that if other peoples, non-anglo-saxon peoples, just start living like anglo-saxons in absolute nuclear families, they will — via some sort of cultural osmosis or something — start behaving all anglo-saxony, too. i’m not convinced. where, i would ask, is the evidence for this?

in the comments to one of my previous posts on this subject, i pointed out that, for example, italian american families, most of which have been in the u.s. for multiple generations now, are mostly absolute nuclear families — at least they appear to be on the surface. however, italian americans are really strongly attached to their extended families in ways that anglo-americans simply are not. here’s what i said (or, rather, what i quoted):

from “Community and Identity in Italian American Life” in The Review of Italian American Studies (2000) [pgs. 250-251]:

“Family gatherings…are still part of Italian American life….

“Italian Americans, even the more affluent, remain in inner-city enclaves more than other groups do. When Italian Americans do move, many times two or more generations are involved in the exodus to a new suburban residence. If they do not locate together, Italian American family members find residences within short distances of one another. When upwardly mobile children leave their inner-city parents for the suburbs, they visit them more than any other group. When leaving the extended family, Italian Americans most often move into some modified extended family arrangement characterized by continual economic and social exchanges. Similarly, Italian American middle- and working-class children are more likely to take geographical proximity to the family into account when considering college attendance. Contemporary Italian American youth spread their wings, but not too far.

“Although crude survey data indicate that Italian Americans are increasingly intermarrying, these measures miss the reality that many times it is the non-Italian marriage partner who is drawn into the powerful magnet of the Italian American family. In addition, intermarriage need no diminish the ethnicity of the Italian American partner nor does it mean necessarily that the offspring will not be reared in the Italian American way. Italian Americans are more entrepreneurial than most; family businesses, by definition, provide not only income and independence from outsiders but also keep the family together. Socially mobile Itlaian Americans are willing to sacrifice some career and employment opportunities in order to stay within the orbit of family life.”

and from The Italian American Experience (2000) [pgs. 210-211, 373-374]:

“For a long time, it was believed that this sequence was inevitably moving toward the complete absorption of Italian Americans….

“While intermarriage rates have remained lower than for other groups, exogamy among Italian Americans has greatly increased. Divorce rates, even for the most recent generation, remain very low compared to all other ethnic groups. Italian Americans still maintain a pattern of relatively frequent family contacts, with some studies actually indicating an increase in visiting among relatives for later generations. The strength of family ties has been identified as a deterrent to residential mobility and as a factor in the maintenance of Italian American neighborhoods….

“For Italians, family is an all-consuming ideal as is expressed by Luigi Barzini, among many others. For Italian Americans, ‘families’ usually include grandparents, whose influence on family life can be great….

“*L’ordine della familia*, which connotes precise boundaries, role expectations, and clear values for right and wrong behavior, is taught at a very early age and includes:

“- Always respecting parents and grandparents;
– Placing family needs first, staying physically and psychologically close to other members;
– Not talking about the family to outsiders;
– Sometimes maintaining secrets between family members to maintain personal boundaries; other family members do not need to know everythings, particularly if it will cause harm;
– Showing respect for authority outside of the family, but not trusting it;
– and Working hard, but also enjoying life; livining well is sharing food, music, and companionship with those one loves.”

yeah. just like in every sopranos episode that you ever saw. (~_^) why, then, don’t italian americans behave just like anglo americans? they’ve been in the u.s. a pretty long time now … and they live in absolute nuclear families. ‘sup?
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so i thought i’d check the gss (General Social Survey) to see how anglo-saxony italian americans are. unfortunately, the gss numbers for italian americans with all four grandparents born in the u.s. (in other words, being at least third generation or more, which ought to make one really american, right?) are really tiny. dr*t.

so, i decided to look at german and irish americans instead in comparison to english/welsh americans — to see how anglo-saxony those two groups have become (quick answer for those tl:dr folks out there [SPOILER ALERT!]: not very).

before we start, though, t. greer recently pointed out the ever-present problem in these self-reported sort-of surveys and that is that we’re relying on how the respondents “identify” ethnically. how “german” are any of the “german americans” in the gss? who knows? however, the same problem should apply, i would think, across the board here with the self-identified english/welsh, german, and irish americans (i purposefully have NOT used the “just american” category since i want to get at how anglo americans behave), so it should all even out (i hope).

i’ve picked out questions that related to: “civicness” (see previous posts here and here for more on what that is), because the english are VERY civic-minded; “familism” (see here and here), because the english are NOT very familistic; and a couple of ones related to ideas about government and the u.s. that i thought sounded pretty anglo-saxony and that i just found interesting. let’s start with those.

for all of these questions, i’ve shown the results for respondents with all four grandparents born in the u.s. AND for all respondents — just because i can (and i thought it might be interesting to compare). for ethnicity i selected the “COUNTRY OF FAMILY ORIGIN [ETHNIC]” parameter. [click on charts for LARGER view.]

should we “Allow public meeting protesting the government” [PROTEST 1]?:

gss - anglo saxons - allow public meetings protesting government 02

england/wales: n=455 for all/n=244 for 4 grandparents
germany: n=604/n=248
ireland: n=412/n=151

should we “Allow publications protesting the government” [PROTEST 2]?:

gss - anglo saxons - allow publications protesting government 02

same n’s as above.

“How close do you feel to America” [CLSEUSA]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how close do you feel to america

england/wales: n=262/n=205
germany: n=367/n=242
ireland: n=245/n=170

wtf german americans?!

so on those three questions there’s anywhere from a four to a fourteen point spread between the responses of german and irish americans versus anglo americans, with anglo americans consistently being more pro allowing protests against the government of different sorts and more pro american. i agree, four points is not much of a difference, but fourteen is — and, as you’ll see below, this is a consistent pattern, i.e. that third+ generation anglo americans are more anglo-saxony than either third+ generation german americans or irish americans.
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the familism questions (again, see previous posts on familism here and here). for all of these:

england/wales: n=96/n=72
germany: n=150/n=100
ireland: n=106/n=70

“How often does R[espondent] contact uncles or aunts [UNCAUNTS]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact uncles aunts

“How often does R contact nieces or nephews [NIECENEP]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact nieces nephews

“How often does R contact cousin [COUSINS]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact cousins

the differences in the familism scores, then, are not that great. still, with the exception of “how often contact nieces/nephews”, both the german and irish american scores reflect greater familism on their part than on the anglo americans. slightly greater, but greater nevertheless.
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finally, the civicness questions (again, see previous posts on civicness here and here). for all of these:

england/wales: n=96, n=72
germany: n=150, n=100
ireland: n=106, n=70

“Participated in a charitable organization in past 12 months [GRPCHRTY]”:

gss - anglo saxons - charitable organization

“Participated in activity of a political party [GRPPOL]”:

gss - anglo saxons - political party

“Participated in activity of a political party [GRPUNION]”:

gss - anglo saxons - trade union

“Participated in activity of church in past 12 months [GRPCHURH]”:

gss - anglo saxons - church

“Participated in sports group in past 12 months [GRPSPORT]”:

gss - anglo saxons - sports group

so, again, with the exception of participation in a sports group, the anglo americans score higher than the other two groups on all of the questions. the differences range from just two points to eighteen. in the case of sports, german americans scored just a tad (one point) higher in participation than anglo americans and irish americans four points, but anglo americans are out in front on the other four civic behaviors.

you might be thinking that the not-all-that-great differences in civicness scores between these three groups illustrates that german and irish americans are, in fact, becoming more like anglo americans. (why it should be taking so long is curious though — these are THIRD+ generation groups after all.) however, if we look at the very same questions from the world values survey (2005-2008 wave), we find the SAME pattern!: great britain ahead of germany on all the civicness metrics. (unfortunately, ireland was not included in this wvs wave.) (see also previous post.)

great britain: n=1012-1035
germany: n=2039-2050

note that non-whites are included in these figures. ethnicity was, apparently, not asked in germany, because … well, you know … everybody’s the same, so i didn’t parse out non-whites from the results for britain, either. doesn’t seem to make much difference to the scores — one point here and there — since there are not that many non-whites included in the british survey.

gss - anglo saxons - wvs civicness metrics

as you can see, same patterns again: great britain ahead of germany on all of these civicness measurements. and the differences between the two populations — the (mostly) anglos in britain and the (mostly) germans in germany — are very similar to the differences between the two populations in the u.s. — AFTER THREE+ GENERATIONS of being in the u.s.!:

– charitable organization: u.s.=11%, euro=21%
– political party: u.s.=6%, euro=6%
– trade union: u.s.=5%, euro=8%
– church: u.s.=3%, euro=1%
– sports group: u.s.=1% (higher in germany), euro=5%

i strongly suspect that german americans are not becoming like anglo americans, or if they are, it’s NOT happening very quickly. german americans:anglo americans::germans:anglos. nor do i see any reason to think that other groups like the irish or the italians are becoming anglo-saxons either.
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the evidence i’ve presented is not conclusive. obviously. (it’s just a blog post!) Further Research is RequiredTM.

anglo-saxons — or the english of today — have been living in absolute nuclear families for a very long time, but this is more of a symptom of anglo-saxonness than its cause (although there undoubtedly has been feedback between the family type and societal structures). it took the anglo-saxons a looong time to get from being a kindred-based germanic “tribe” to the anglo-saxony individualistic-collectivistic english society that we know today (and have known since about the 1200s-1400s). it’s going to take other societies a similarly looong time to get to the same place — if they will even ever get to exactly the same place — since we are talking about biological processes here including the selection for certain behavioral traits. simply plunking germans — let alone italians (especially southern italians!) — down in absolute nuclear families will NOT turn them into anglos overnight. apparently it won’t even turn them into anglos in three+ generations.

no. anglo-saxons are exceptional. innately so. we should try not to destroy that, since it benefits so many of us.

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0 and the saxons, the anglo-saxons, and america 3.0 and civic societies and civic societies ii and hispanic family values and familism in the u.s. of a.

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familism in the u.s. – whites by region

jayman says/asks:

“Theoretically, Red Staters are more able to depend on extended family. But here’s a question on the matter: is that true *today*? Are Whites in the South and West *today* more kin-centric? My (somewhat limited) experience in those parts of the country seems to indicate that they’re just about as individualistic as Blue Staters. I understand that kin-groups are still a major feature in Appalachia, but how about the rest of red America?”

**ALERT, ALERT!: READER REQUEST!** (^_^)

ok. so i looked at the “behavioral familism” related questions in the 2002 gss to see how whites in the different regions of the u.s. responded to the following questions:

– “How often do you contact your uncles/aunts?”
– “How often do you contact your nieces/nephews?”
– “How often do you contact your cousin(s)?”

the possible answers were:

– “More than twice in last 4 weeks.”
– “Once or twice in last 4 weeks.”
– “Not at all in last 4 weeks.”
– “I have no living relative of this type.”

as before, i collapsed the first two possible answers together to make a sorta “yes” repsonse (“yes, i’ve contacted that person in the last 4 weeks”).

here’s what i found (sorry, you might need your glasses to read these — wordpress has fixed it so that you can’t see a LARGER image in a new tab/window anymore. grrrrrr!):

gss 2002 - familism - u.s. whites - contact uncles & aunts

gss 2002 - familism - u.s. whites - contact newphews & nieces

gss 2002 - familism - u.s. whites - contact cousins

the patterns i see are:

east south central (alabama, kentucky, mississippi and tennessee), a consistently red state area, comes in twice with the highest ranking — and is above the national average on those two questions.
new england, a consistently blue state area, comes in once with the highest ranking — and, in fact, is above the national average on all three questions. so no one can accuse the new englanders of not being oriented towards the extended family!

the above average scorers on the three questions were (map of regions here):

new england – above average 3 times
east south central – 2 times
east north central (wi, il, mi, in, oh) – 2 times
west south central (tx, ok, ar, la) – 2 times
west north central (nd, sd, ne, ks, mn, ia, mo) – 2 times
south atlantic (de, md, dc, va, wv, nc, sc, ga, fl) – once

– the pacific states (ak, wa, or, ca, hi), a mostly blue region (with the exception of alaska), came in twice with the lowest ranking.
– the mountain states, a mostly red region, came in once with the lowest ranking.

the below average scorers on the three questions were (map of regions here):

pacific – 3 times
mountain – 3 times
middle atlantic (NEW YORK! nj & pa) – 3 times
west north central (nd, sd, ne, ks, mn, ia, mo) – one time
south atlantic (de, md, dc, va, wv, nc, sc, ga, fl) – one time
east north central (wi, il, mi, in, oh) – one time

to me, it seems like there’s an east-west divide — white familism decreases around the rocky mountains and gets even lower on the west coast. i should’ve made some maps. maybe i’ll work on that.
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so, back to jayman’s question: “Are Whites in the South and West *today* more kin-centric?”

yes, whites in the south are pretty kin-centric, but not so much in the west. and new englanders are very kin-centric — so there! (^_^) new yorkers are not.

i’ve got the data for african-americans, too, so i’ll check them out in another post.

previously: familism in the u.s. of a. and hispanic family values

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