January 25, 2007

How Ethnic Stereotypes Lessen Ethnic Nepotism

Irwin Silverman, of the psychology department of York U. in Toronto, did a study of "ethnic nepotism" among English-speaking Canadian college students. He described 10 situations (e.g., buying an appliance or deciding who to let into your nuclear fallout shelter) and asked each student whether they would favor their own ethnic group or some Other ethnic group under three alternative conditions:

1. if all else was equal;
2. if favoring your ethnic group imposed a minor cost on you;
3. if favoring your ethnic group would impose a substantial cost on you.

Irwin found a surprising degree of ethnic nepotism in the cost-free situations. Roughly 90% of the responses favored helping their own ethnic group. This is strikingly high for Canada, where the Protestant majority is relentlessly lectured against discriminating in favor of themselves.

Ethnic nepotism, however, fell off rapidly as the costs mounted. On a 0 to 3 scale (where 0 is favoring the Other ethnic group in the cost free-situation, 1 is favoring your ethnic relatives when the cost is zero, two is favoring your co-ethnics when the cost is small but real, and 3 is when the cost is substantial), scores ranged from around 1.1 to 1.6 depending on the ethnicity of the subject.

The least ethnocentric group was the WASPs, while the most was the Jewish-Canadians. (French Canadians didn't show up as their own group. And there were only 15 East Asians in the study, so the finding that East Asians are the 2nd least ethnocentric group must be taken with a grain of salt.)

Since ethnic nepotism, at least by Anglo whites, is deeply unfashionable on Canadian campuses, these scores should be taken as reflecting public attitudes more than private feelings, but they're still interesting.

I tried to give Silverman's test to my neighbor Shelly, who has more real-world experience than do college students. Shelly is, more or less, Italian-American. For the "Other" ethnic group, she picked the Swiss.

"All right," I began, "Say you're buying an expensive item like a washing machine or a camera. Would you pay 15% more to buy it from an Italian-owned firm rather than a Swiss-owned firm?"

"Definitely," Shelly replied, "It would be well worth paying 15% extra for Swiss manufacturing quality."

Steve: "Well, yes, but the question here is whether you'd pay 15% extra for an Italian-made product."

Shelly: "Don't be ridiculous. Who in the world would pay 15% extra for a Fiat over a Volvo?"

Steve: "Well, Volvos are made in Sweden, not Switz --"

Shelly: "Exactly. Now if it was furniture, say, or clothes, or some other fashion item, I'd certainly pay more for Italian. And I'd pay lots more to go to an Italian restaurant. Who goes to a Swiss restaurant?"

Steve: "Yes, but it says here in the question that the Swiss-made and the Italian-made appliances are exactly equal in quality."

Shelly: "My mind refuses to deal with such an implausible assertion."

Thus, the more you know about how much ethnic groups tend to differ in economic skills, the less likely you are to believe that favoring your own ethnic group would be cost free. Therefore, to reduce the number of ethnocentric actions, instead of being told that everybody's the same, college students should be required to read books like Thomas Sowell's "Ethnic America" so they can more quickly get up to speed on ethnic stereotypes.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Er, um, Steve, (nominally) Catholics outnumber (nominally) Protestants in Canada (thanks in large part to La Belle Province)as well as from recent immigration (E Europe, Lebanon, the Philippines Haiti (the birthplace of our Governor-General) and Latin America (including Mexico!). Previous to Stephen Harper and with the exception of Kim Campbell, Canada has not had a non-Catholic PM since Pearson (mid sixties)


Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, how about dropping the name of Irwin's study on us?

ziel said...

Hilarious. I swear, I would have the same conversation with my Italian neighbor (although, since she's from Brooklyn and we're in New Jersey, there would necessarily be some superficial differences in vocabulary and syntax).

Anonymous said...

'Shelly: "My mind refuses to deal with such an implausible assertion."'

Am I the only one who finds it improbable these words came from the lips of an Italian-American woman, or does it strike anyone else as likely that this exchange is heavily embellished?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, poised with questions of that nature, I'd have had a tough time answering. It depends a lot on the context. I might mildly prefer to deal with someone of similar ethnic background "when the costs are low or nonexistent" under certain very limited circumstances, but in most cases will choose based on other factors.

And pseudo-nepotism doesn't get _anybody_ a free spot in the fallout shelter. "Ethnicity as extended family" may be genetically and historically valid, but friends come long before people whose relationship to me is something I'd need a DNA analysis and a course in advanced geneaology to understand. :)

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts on this:

First, as an American Jew, I'm still waiting to meet another Jew enthnocentrically nepotistic enough to hook my me up. Consider this recent experience of mine. An old friend of my father's (a Jew) learned that his new neighbor in his Upper West Side co-op building (also a Jew) was the head of an institutional division of a major investment bank. This neighbor tells my father's friend that he likes to help out younger people.

My father's friend tells me to send him a resume to give to the exec. The exec spends a cursory five minutes on the phone with me, and says he'll pass the resume around. Nothing comes of this. During the same time period (which happened to be during the Israel-Hezbollah war) a former co-worker and friend and a different investment company -- an orthodox Christian of Lebanese ancestry -- offers me a job. So even when my fellow ethnics were bombing his fellow ethnics, our personal relationship as former co-workers, fellow Giants fans, etc., trumped any Hebraic connection with the Jewish exec.

Second point, if anyone's still reading, is to defend the "economic skills" of the Italians. I can think of some things I'd rather have an Italian company manufacture than a Swiss company: A high-end espresso machine, high-end motorcycle, or high-end sports car (Ferrari, not Fiat). If I need a particle accelerator or a watch, I'll buy from the Swiss.


daveg said...

My brother in law is Jewish, by way of Mexico. His father is a polish-Jew who moved to Mexico and married a Mexican, but he was raised in the Jewish community.

Anyway, when the Mexican economy went south about ten years ago he moved to the US with his brother and bought a embroidery machine and set up a small business here. They obtained small contracts through the local Jewish communities and got the business up and running fairly quickly it has been an on going concern ever since.

There was a falling out between the two brothers and now only one works in the business, but that is not really relevant.

Anyway, the point is that if the US economy went south I don't think I would have the same ability to move to another country and have local connections available to set up a business so easily. (Not to imply that they do not work hard, they do.)

This is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it is something that is not so "normal" for a person of my background.

Anonymous said...

Most people in my area (the Appalachian borderlands of TN/KY/NC/VA) are poor Irish or Scots-Irish descent. I'm from that background; and they/we go nowhere because of almost no "ethnic solidarity" among us. Our hostilities seem self-directed, not outwardly directed. No, I have all my teeth and my IQ is 140, Mr. Markowitz, thanks. I can find my way out.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to take the test. Is it online?

Anonymous said...

Hey, 140 IQ Scots-Irish guy: Sorry to crash your pity party but there have been some Scots-Irish who have done fine -- Jim Webb for one.

If the bulk of you haven't achieved economic success after 200 years in the country, is the fault really with "Mr. Markowitz"?

joshrandall said...

When white people show "ethnic nepotosm" its decried as that worst of all sins:racism.And who has the biggest,loudest mouth screaming about the evils of racism? Jews,of course! Yet this article shows,to no ones surprise,Jews are the ones who do it most!Though not enough for some of the slackers here!:) Point:white people NEED to stick together,both on the ethnic level(Italians helping Italians,etc) but also on the racial level.Avoid buying from Jews whenever practicle--theyre doing it to us!

Tony said...

Is Roger Federer's Switzerland leading export earner?

Robert Hume said...

What's going on with "anonymous"? Is he talking to himself?

Anyway, in "Born Fighting" Webb critiques his own culture for lack of ambition.

I think that is characteristic of those who feel very much a part of their society. They need not fear that they will be persecuted if they are not well-off.

Perhaps as it becomes ever more clear that immigration is causing the Scots Irish to lose their demographic strength, they will recover their immigrant ambition.

Anonymous said...

Robert Hume,

Don't you have this statement backwards: "They need not fear that they will be persecuted if they are not well-off."

In most recent cases, isn't it the relatively well-off, high-achieving minority groups that get persecuted? E.g., Jews in Germany, ethnic Indians in Fiji, Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, etc.?

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