Sunday, January 15, 2012

Class Conflict in America?

A recent New York Times story noted that perceived conflict between the rich and poor has increased since 2009.  Although it said that "traditionally, class has been less a part of the American political debate than it has been in Europe,"  it didn't mention that the question it talks about has also been asked in a number of other countries as part of the International Social Survey Programme.  Actually, the ISSP includes four questions about conflict:  poor people vs. rich people, working class vs. middle class, management vs. workers, and people at the bottom vs. people at the top.  In principle, people might distinguish between these types of conflicts, but in practice they tend to rate them all the same way:  if you think there's a lot of conflict between rich and poor, you probably think there's a lot between management and workers.  If you add the scores together to get a general measure of conflict and take the average for each nation, here are the rankings in 1999 (the last time the questions were included in the ISSP),  from most to least perceived conflict.

N      mean
Chile           1362   0.91
Portugal        1092   0.77
Hungary         1035   0.60
Philippines     1168   0.47
Russia          1409   0.46
United States   1025   0.25
Poland           794   0.14
Slovenia         844   0.10
Great Britain    691   0.04
Latvia           944  -0.00
New Zealand      993  -0.01
Germany East     446  -0.08
Australia       1540  -0.11
Sweden          1026  -0.15
France          1746  -0.19
Slovakia         948  -0.23
Bulgaria         749  -0.25
Israel          1140  -0.26
North Ireland    709  -0.27
Czech Rep       1431  -0.31
Germany West     789  -0.32
Cyprus           920  -0.42
Norway          1103  -0.54
Austria          830  -0.55
Spain           1091  -0.61 

By this measure, the United States ranks pretty high in perceived class conflict, sixth out of twenty-four. Britain, which is often seen as a class-bound society, is several spots behind. The Contentious French (in Charles Tilly's phrase) rank below average. In fact, there are so many surprises that it's hard to see any pattern.

No comments:

Post a Comment