A Creative Reflective Essay Relating My Understanding of an Article from the Cross-Cultural Journal of Psychology: TWO DECADES OF CHANGE IN CULTURAL VALUES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN EIGHT EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS (MICHAEL W. ALLEN, University of Sydney, Australia; SIK HUNG NG, City University of Hong Kong, China; KEN’ICHI lKEDA, University of Tolcyo, Japan; JAYUM A. JAWAN, Universiti Putra Malaysia; ANWARUL HASAN SUFI, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh; MARC WILSON, Victoria University, New Zealand; KUO-SHU YANG, Fo Guang College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Taiwan)
This article is the result of the authors’ desire to answer the question: ‘Do cultural values and cultural change accompany economic progress? ’ and; they endeavoured to do so by duplicating Ng et al. ’s (1982) cross-cultural survey in 2002 and comparing the variances the passing of 20 years may have wrought. Additionally, they sought to determine whether a) cultural determinism drove economic development; b) economic determinism drove changes in cultural values or; c) whether a third school of thought being ‘a middle ground’ between cultural and economic determinism held the answer.
Interest in the answer to this question from the 1980’s has been rekindled (partly) as a result of the rapid economic growth of the East Asian countries of Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore (Yeh & Lawrence 1995). The authors refer to research by Hofstede, 1980; Hofstede & Bond, 1988 and Franke, Hofstede & Bond, 1991 who had presented statistical evidence contending to demonstrate the link between a nation’s culture and its economic growth.
However, I am inclined to agree with Yeh & Lawrence (1995): the answer is far more complex and the influence of other important factors such as a stable political environment and market orientated economic policies cannot be ignored. Yeh & Lawrence (1995) also refer to a report by the World Bank (1991a), which attributed China’s rapid growth primarily to Deng’s market orientated reforms: not changes in the national culture of the Chinese people. A further concern for me is the fact that in both the 1982 and the 2002 survey, the participants from each country, were limited to university students.
In some of the developing countries used for the survey the percentage of the total population with sufficient literacy skills and financial support to obtain a tertiary education would be quite low. Therefore, I do not believe that the results of either survey provide a true overall representation of each nation’s population. Education and literacy statistics compiled by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) provide an excellent example of the one of the inconsistencies such a limited sample size produces:
Bangladesh’s 2003 adult literacy rate (total population) 43. 1% Hong Kong’s 2003 adult literacy rate (total population) 94. 0% Bangladesh’s 2002 tertiary education enrollment rate (total population) 6. 6% Hong Kong’s 2002 tertiary education enrollment rate (total population) 31. 39% Source: UNESCO UIS Data | UNESCO Institute for Statistics Had a true cross-sample of each nation’s population been used, I believe the results would have varied significantly from those stated.
Therefore, I consider the findings drawn from these two surveys regarding the level of linkage between national culture, economic development and the impact of each on the other to be flawed. No doubt undertaking such a large scale project was a costly endeavour and this is perhaps the reason for such inadequate sampling and from which I have drawn three main areas of concern regarding the validity of the findings. Firstly, the sample size was restricted to 100 university students all studying psychology or a related field; only one university was included rom each nation and, the average mean age of the students was 19. 3 years: this could not possibly be a true representation of the total population of a nation. The sample should have represented a much broader cross section of each population and included participants from all adult age groups across a diverse range of occupations. Additionally, there was no consideration given to the ratio of sample size to total population numbers. In 1982 there were 750 participants and in 2002 there were 761 participants both across the same 8 nations with total population numbers in the 100’s of millions.
The ratio of participants to total population numbers in both 1982 and 2002 is inadequate and the 2002 survey also failed to make any adjustments for growth in population numbers during the ensuing 20 years. For example, Bangladesh’s population in 1982 was estimated at 89 million (US Library of Congress) and had grown to approximately 133. 3 million by 2002 (CIA World FactBook). Secondly, limiting the survey to 100 university students (a sample of convenience) per nation restricts the sample to only one small section of one socioeconomic status group and has me questioning the validity of the authors’ findings.
The aims, interests, beliefs and desires of a small group of students (statistically from middle and upper socioeconomic backgrounds) are not a true representation of the total population of a nation. Socioeconomic status (SES) is used to determine ‘an individual’s or group’s position within a hierarchical social structure’ (The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy 2005) and represents a combination of variables: income, education, occupation and wealth being the primary status indicators.
Thus, different socioeconomic status groups will place varying levels of emphasis on the importance of things such as ‘A World at Peace’ or ‘Equality’. Yet this issue was ignored and the short-sightedness of the survey’s design brings the results for both the 1982 and the 2002 survey into question. I do not believe it is possible to gain a true indication of the relationship between national culture and economic development using such a limiting instrument.
Thirdly, I do not believe GDP is always a good indicator of the economic development of a nation. Economic development is more than a figure representing the total value of goods and services produced in a given year in comparison to total consumer, government and investment spending. Economic development is about increasing the standard of living and social wellbeing of a nation’s people in association with sustained economic growth but there does not appear to have been sufficient information collected to ascertain this was the case in all 8 nations.
The USA could be considered one such example: a nation with a substantial GDP yet it has increasing deterioration in the level of general health and growing literacy issues across its population. Having critiqued the article and found what I consider to be several major flaws with the structure of the survey I still find myself in agreement with some of the survey’s findings. However, I do not agree with the recommendation for a future study that again uses Ng et al. ’s (1982) survey: a new survey needs to be designed to address the shortcomings inherent in a sample of convenience such as this.
I do agree with the middle-ground theory where the influence of cultural values and economic development work together in ebb and flow style: each driving change in the other according the particular stage of economic growth. The ancient Chinese understanding of how things work (Yin-Yang) is an excellent representation of this theory: the outer circle represents ‘everything’ and the black and white shapes within the circle (Yin-Yang) represent the interaction of the two energies that cause everything to happen.
In the context of this article Yin-Yang is the interaction between cultural and economic determinism with ‘everything’ being representative of economic progress and (in my opinion) one cannot exist without the other. This is why I believe the middle ground theory is the logical choice: economic development and national cultural are inextricably linked and within each of these there exists other influencing factors.
I also believe any future study wishing to examine the link between national culture and economic development will need to consider much broader issues than those addressed in this article. Apart from the restrictions of the size sample in these surveys, any new survey should consider: stability of the political environment; changes in market orientated economic policies; whether GDP is truly representative of an overall improvement in living standards and a more recent crucial consideration – climate change.
I have not previously reflected on climate change in relation to this article and in 2002 the subject did not hold as much sway as it does in 2009; nor am I sure how or if it could be factored into such a survey. However, climate change is a global threat and developing nations are the most vulnerable. Therefore future examination of any nation’s culture and economic development must acknowledge that economic growth is now complicated by the reality of climate change and the threat it poses.
In conclusion, yes, the article asks an interesting question but it falls short in convincing me of the validity of the authors’ findings. Although nothing in life is truly black and white: a better survey (design and content) may have provided the authors with a more definitive answer. References: CIA World Factbook, USA, 2008, 19 October 2009, https://www. cia. gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, USA 25 October 2009, ttp://dictionary. reference. com/browse/socioeconomic status United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation, Canada, 2009, 19 October 2009, http://www. unesco. org/en/education U. S. Library of Congress, USA, 2009, 19 October 2009,http://countrystudies. us/bangladesh/26. htm Yeh, R S, Lawrence, J J, 1995, ‘Individualism and Confucian Dynamism: A Note on Hofstede’s Cultural Root to Economic Growth’, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 26, Issue 3, pp 655 – 669