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Regional Differences in Economic Attitudes and Behavior in the Russian Federation

2011
Head: Lebedeva, Nadezhda, Yasin, Evgeny, Magun, Vladimir
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The purpose of the study was to identify regional differences in the economic attitudes and behavior of the population of the Russian Federation.

The empirical base of the research constituted the results of a socio-psychological survey carried out in five federal districts of Russia: Central, Siberian, Volga, North Caucasus, and Far East. The total sample size was 1,740 people.

For indicators of economic behavior, we considered behavioral attitudes in relation to situations in which the respondents were required to make economic decisions based on the evaluation of two given options. Values, social capital, and attitudes to innovations are viewed as factors affecting economic attitudes and behavior. 

The project included the subtopic "Basic Values and Welfare Attitudes in Russia and Other European Countries".

The data for the second part of the study was provided by the databases of the two international research projects – European Social Survey and World Values Survey, as well as by VCIOM, a survey company. 

Study Results:

1) Central Federal District (CFD): Compared to the other regions, this region has the most favorable cultural and psychological basis for economic development. The residents of the Central Federal District significantly differ in their economic perceptions from the people of the other regions of Russia. In particular, they have higher indicators of economic self-sufficiency, as opposed to economic paternalism. The material well-being is important to them, they notice positive changes over the past two years, and make positive future projections. The residents of the CFD attach great importance to personal achievements in the economic sphere, even if for these they have to violate the rules. The residents of CFD are notable for a medium level of social capital. Productive economic attitudes and behavior, assuming activity on the part of an individual and a focus on a long-term perspective, are also based on social capital, predispositions to support innovation (which are manifested in this region), and "productive" economic perceptions. This focus on innovations, changes, and achievements constitutes the socio-psychological basis for the economic development in this region.

2) Siberian Federal District (SFD): The residents of this district have high economic claims but demonstrate an insufficient cultural and psychological basis for fulfilling these claims. In this region (compared with other regions) money was attributed the highest importance by the respondents. In comparison with the residents of other regions, the population of the SFD selected rather "unproductive" economic models focusing almost exclusively on consumption. Among the respondents value priorities, the lowest indicators belong to the values of "Openness to Change" and "Self-Enhancement" - the values that constitute the cultural basis for economic development. High economic pretensions and anticipation of growth in material well-being form the socio - psychological basis for economic development in this region.

3) Volga Federal District (VFD): In this region, the indicators of satisfaction with material well-being are the highest in the sample. However, the introduction of innovations, rapid change, and progress are the least probable, since the acceptance and support for innovation in the region is the lowest in the sample. At the level of individual values, among residents of the VFD, the values of Security, Conformity and Tradition are dominant. This also indicates that the residents of the VFD are more committed to familiar forms of social and economic behavior. However, the indicators for social capital in this region are rather high compared to other regions. The psychological basis for economic development: the high level of social capital. 

4) North Caucasus Federal District (NCFD): The residents of the NCFD are much more inclined to put profit above the law than the residents of other districts and are the most likely to favor equal, but not fair distribution of profit. Compared with the residents of other regions, they also have the most short-term perspective in economic behavior, which is not conducive to economic growth. In the North Caucasus Federal District, the values that represent the interests of the group and values that imply protection of order, stability, and social harmony are dominating: Tradition, Conformity, Security, and the value of Benevolence. Unlike most districts, in the North Caucasus Federal District people value respecting and keeping traditions; accepting and recognizing ideas existing in culture and religion; stability; security; and harmony. Statistical data on the NCFD are indicative of the low innovative potential of the region (with the exception of Stavropol Territory). These indicators are largely determined by cultural values. The residents of the North Caucasus Federal District rate as least important exactly those values (Self-Direction, Stimulation) that affect the development of innovative skills and increase the index of an individual's innovativeness. It appears that NCFD residents who are more inclined toward innovations have a hierarchy of values that is different from the hierarchy of values that is generally characteristic of the region; this will increase the outflow of the able-bodied and development-oriented population of the region. Perhaps, the region should develop traditional types of economic activities. It is necessary to come up with the economic "specialization" of the region because the development of production and introduction of innovation in this region are problematic.

5) Far East Federal District (FEFD): In the FEFD, the indicator of economic self-sufficiency is one of the highest. Satisfaction with material well-being in the district ranks second after the Volga Federal District. Positive views of changes in standards of living are significantly higher than those of the other districts. As regards models of economic behavior, compared to the respondents of the other districts, the respondents of  FEFD have more desire to save time than money (focus on specialization), to support the principle of fairness in allocation of rewards, as well as to maintain the priority of law over profit. The features of the value-motivational sphere of FEFD residents include: a stronger desire for stability, security, and self-preservation and a lesser (compared to other regions) desire for power, self-direction, autonomy, and enjoyment. As for the psychological basis for the implementation of innovation and innovative capacity, in terms of the degree of intensity of attitudes toward innovations, the FEFD is among the absolute outsiders in the sample. The psychological basis for the economic development of the region: rationality, high economic self-sufficiency, and a more pronounced focus on equity compared with other regions. The region is not fit for introducing innovations; however, it is good for slow, careful development of the stable functioning system of economic relations.

Regarding the determinants of basic values, we demonstrated that both country of birth and country of current residence serve as statistically significant factors influencing the respondent’s current values; still, the influence of the latter one is stronger. As for welfare attitudes, we can conclude the following:

a) The demand to provide public goods addressed to the state is high in all the European countries studied. Still this demand is different depending on the kind of goods requested. Universal programs (as pensions and health care) are in higher demand than more selective ones (as to ensure a reasonable standard of living for the unemployed or to ensure sufficient child care services for working parents). 
b) The disadvantaged categories  express higher demand for the state provision of public goods than those who are in a better position in the labor market and who have greater human capital. The disadvantaged categories just mentioned are in most cases not the tax-payers themselves but those who “vote” for a tax increase.
c) Country of residence is the strongest single predictor of the welfare attitudes just described – stronger than demographic, occupational or value variables. Russians are among Europe's leaders in terms of demand for state provision, but they express just a moderate intention to increase such a provision in exchange for increased taxes.

The significance of the findings: for preparing, developing, and introducing innovations; carrying out modernization reforms in the regions when it is necessary to consider the cultural and psychological features of the population. The results of  the given analytical and diagnostic study can be used in elaborating regional development programs, especially the subsidized ones, when it is important to take into account the cultural and psychological features of the inhabitants of the regions in order to make effective decisions in the field of regional policy.

The results of the subtopics "Basic Values and Welfare Attitudes in Russia and Other European Countries" could be applied when working out a general approach to Russia’s migration policy, in educating parents on issues concerning their children's moral education, and in working out reforms of the Russian social security system.