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  • Socio-cultural factors of economic development: Working out a new approach to measuring and estimating the impact of cultures

Socio-cultural factors of economic development: Working out a new approach to measuring and estimating the impact of cultures


The object of the research is socio-cultural factors that facilitate economic development. The main purpose of the research is to develop a new theoretic and methodological approach to studying the impact of culture on economic behavior.

In addition to the main aim of the research, there are three additional tasks:

  1. To evaluate the change in the values of Russian people amid the economic crisis;
  2. To develop and test the methods of researching socio-economic behavior
  3. To compare the values of Russians with values of people from other countries.

In the context of the research, we have carried out:  

  • a socio-psychological survey (424 respondents), using the methods of measuring cultural and individual values, social capital, and a method of behavioral scenarios, developed by the authors of the research in order to studysocial and economic behavior;
  • mathematical and statistical analysis of data bases of international studies (European Social Survey – ESS, and International Social Survey Program - ISSP);

The results of the research were:

  1. By combining the approaches of R. Inglehart and Sh. Schwartz, we were able to create more universal axes of measurement, reflective objective and subjective evaluation of the countries’ development based on crucial for human lives and society parameters.
  2. We have conducted the fourth (since 1999) measurement of the changes in Russians’ values, using Sh. Schwartz’ methodology. The study detected the discordance in the value dynamics at cultural and historical levels:
  • At the cultural level, we noted the rise in importance of such values as “Affiliation”, “Hierarchy”, “Harmony”, i.e. the values that reflect interests of a group,
  • At the individual level, the saw increasing importance of such values as “Self-Enhancement” and “Openness to Change” (values reflecting individual interests).

In this light, we may hypothesize that, amid the crisis, cultural values (group values) aim for maximum safety and preserving, i. e. collective survival, while at the individual level this process is accompanied by a search for individual survival strategies that rely on Self-Enhancement and Openness to Change values. This mismatch in group and individual values characterizes dynamics of culture and individuality amid the crisis.

3. Based on situational approach, we have developed and tested a new method to study socio-economic behavior – Method of socio-economic behavior scenarios. The results of the testing confirm its constructive validity.

3.1. The use of cluster analysis of situation evaluation scales, represented in the method, allowed to divide the scenarios into two groups. The first group consists of situations of socio-economic behavior that are negatively evaluated by most respondents (corruption relations or hierarchal pressure on subordinates). At the same time, respondents believe that this type of behavior is very frequent in Russia, but they are not prepared to behave that way themselves. The second group includes situations of socio-economic behavior that are positively evaluated by respondents (care about subordinates, equality in relations, countering corruption). In addition to positive evaluation, respondents are ready to reproduce the types of behavior that are described in example situations. However, these situations are considered as non-typical for the Russian society.

3.2. Testing of these methods revealed that typical (hierarchal) models of behavior in modern Russian culture are evaluated negatively, but people are prepared to behave that way sometimes, which shows that they are rather functional in modern Russia (high marks on the typicality scale), operative and supported by existing institutional sphere of the society.

3.3. The results of the analysis lead to an assumption that at the level of attitude, Russians are ready to replace the customary (hierarchal and corruption) models of social behavior with those that are more egalitarian and based on mutual trust and honesty. Thus, the results obtained through this method lead to a conclusion that the need for socio-cultural changes has emerged: people are more positive about non-typical (egalitarian) models of behavior, whereas the readiness to behave that way is still low, which shows that it is necessary to create pre-requisites for large typicality of these models of behavior in the form of social institutions, prompting and encouraging behavior.

3.4. Regression analysis revealed that there is a relation between values (according to Sh. Schwartz and R. Inglehart) and respondent evaluation of socio-economic behavior situations. In particular, it was demonstrated that hierarchal relationship (the use of the status to get privileges etc.) are based on such values as Tradition and Power. These values are positively related with favorable evaluation of similar situations and are ready to behave that way.

The research of Russian values in the context of international comparisons revealed that inside any European country, including Russia, values hierarchies in terms of consensus size are identical. The most agreement among all European countries is noted about considerable importance of Self-Transcendence and low importance of Self-Enhancement values, whereas the values relating to Openness to Change and Conservation generate less agreement among respondents. Values of Openness to Change and Conservation seem to have stronger identification potential at the global or, at least, European level.

Regression analysis with control over socio-demographic characteristics of respondents reveals more significant differences between Russian labor values and values in other countries. It results from differences in socio-demographic composition of Russia from other European countries. This difference actually flattens the value differences. The regression (adjusted) comparisons show that economically-active population of Russia outruns almost all European countries in terms of importance of high salary value, but lags behind in terms of intensity of other labor values, including those that are related to means and ways to ensure high salary.

We have conducted a research devoted to inter-country comparison of fears about unemployment. As the key indicator of attitude to work as a value is the fear to lose it, these subjective feelings are closely tied to value attitude to work. We used the fear of unemployment as the key indicator, which was measured using representative surveys in 2005 in 24 countries of Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. The research showed that the intensity of the fair varies from country to country as well as inside a country among various groups of population. At the same time, the strength of the fear to lose a job among Russians is one of the strongest in the world.