Swedes are not sexist or nativist

By Razib Khan | September 21, 2010 1:32 am

A party, the Sweden Democrats, is about to enter the Swedish parliamanent which is described in this way in Wikipedia:

The party has its origins in the nationalist movement Bevara Sverige Svenskt (“Keep Sweden Swedish”)…During the mid 1990s, the party leader Mikael Jansson strove to make the party more respectable, modelling it after other “euronationalist” parties, most prominently the French National Front. This policy continues to be followed by the present leader Jimmie Åkesson. This effort included ousting openly extremist members.

Yes. More respectable by modeling itself on the National Front. Here’s a bit about the organization which eventually grew into the Sweden Democrats:

Bevara Sverige Svenskt (“Keep Sweden Swedish”) was a Swedish nationalist movement based in Stockholm and is a slogan used by various Swedish nationalist parties. The stated objective of the BSS movement, and the aim of the slogan, was to initiate a debate in order to reduce immigration from non-European countries and repatriate non-ethnic Swedes.

The Swedes, and the world, are shocked. Should they be? From what I can tell the Social Democratic Party of Sweden no longer has a hegemonic grip on Sweden’s politics. But the core working class base of such coalitions is shrinking because of economic restructuring throughout the developed world, with the remnants often defecting to Right-populism. Today Gunnar Mydral would have to look to writing a book about his own nation, which has about the same foreign born proportion as the USA (though that is a touch deceptive as many of these are other Scandinavians or Finns).

This prompted me to look in the World Values Survey. Specifically, the last wave which started around 2005. One thing you notice in the survey is that Swedes are very politically correct, even compared to their Nordic neighbors. I have read that the ecological awareness imputed to Native Americans in part because of the Noble Savage idea has actually resulted in a real shift and striving by many Native Americans to actually implement those ideals. Sometimes I wonder if the Swedes are so “progressive” and “forward thinking” in surveys because everyone always pats them on the back for being progressive and forward thinking. Sweden sure is the least sexist and nativist nation in the WVS.

There are two questions which ask about job preference in times of scarcity. First, “Employers should give priority to (nation) people than immigrants,” and second, “Men should have more right to a job than women.” There are three responses: agree, disagree, neither. Let’s code agree = 1, disagree = -1, and neither as 0. Weight by proportion and get an index of “nativism” and “sexism” within the population. If you get a score of -1, that would mean everyone was nativist or sexist. If you get 0, that would indicate perfect balance. 0.5, a touch on the nativist or sexist side. The plot below has sexism on the x-axis, and nativism on the y-axis.


Though I think racism is more taboo than sexism internationally (if Saudis explicitly treated blacks in their nation as they do women there would be a natural boycott. One of the reasons the Saudis banned slavery in 1960 had to do with protests which they kept encountering in the civilized world). But sexism is more taboo than nativism (I think there are important reasons for the rank order, but that’s not a matter for this post). The correlation between nativism and sexism is ~0.76, so variation in sexism explains 58% of the variation in nativism. As you can see Sweden is a definite outlier.

Note: don’t attach too much normative baggage to my use of the terms “sexist” and “nativist.” They seemed compact and communicated the underlying sentiments.

Here are the raw values:

Men should get preference in jobs over women
United States6.80%66.40%26.80%
New Zealand8.00%72.60%19.40%
Great Britain16.20%76.10%7.70%
Hong Kong21.60%44.20%34.30%
South Korea36.50%26.40%37.10%
South Africa37.10%49.50%13.40%
Viet Nam40.80%37.70%21.50%
Burkina Faso52.30%34.80%12.90%

Natives should get preference in jobs over immigrants
New Zealand51.90%29.30%18.80%
Great Britain52.90%36.40%10.60%
United States55.40%20.00%24.60%
Burkina Faso71.70%18.80%9.50%
Hong Kong72.30%3.80%23.90%
Viet Nam74.30%10.80%14.90%
South Africa78.30%11.00%10.70%
South Korea78.90%2.40%18.70%
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Data Analysis, Politics

Comments (16)

  1. I’ve been living in Sweden for somewhat more than a year now. I previously lived in Canada, the USA, and Germany. From those countries, the Swedes are at least in my impression the most backward thinking nation I’ve encountered. Nowhere else have I heard so often the replies “Because we’ve always done it like that.” or “That’s just how we do it in Sweden,” when I inquired about the reason for a particularly dumb procedure or policy. (An example: You won’t get a contract for a phone unless you’ve paid taxes for at least 7 months. WTF, I wonder, is that business of the phone company? And let me not get started about the rental situation in that country, but hey, they’ve always done it like that.) I always want to tell them, if we’d all be thinking that way, we’d still live in the stone age. But then, the Swedes are way too polite to tolerate my bickering.

  2. JL

    I’m not criticizing your use of “sexist”, Razib, but I wonder if there is a question like “women should get preference in jobs over men” in the WVS? Would those who answer “yes” be sexist or not?

  3. Georg

    What is the sense of a question on “nativism” in a country,
    which (never) had immigrants, maybe some repatriates
    from outside, where they lived on expense of the natives there,
    as it is the case in serbia? If there are more such “raw”
    figures, then they should be thrown away.
    And, moreover, many (maybe most) countries have a very
    different understanding on nation, native and compatriot
    compared to US, France and GB.

  4. Katharine

    Looking at the entire World Values Survey, I think I’ve just about given up on people and trying to deal with them. Fear of and contempt for the less rational seems more convenient.

    The New York Times has an article on the growing practice of dressing up Afghan little girls as boys by many families. I find that depressing that it’s necessary to do that to give girls a chance there – I have almost unimaginable hatred for sexists and other idiots, no matter their race, class, or social beliefs that they hold in addition to their sexism and other idiocy, but realize that many of them are that way because they don’t have access to education or better information (c.f. the ridiculous notion among less-educated Afghans that women can determine the sex of their child. I can see WHY they hold it, and the solution is to educate, but that doesn’t make it not ridiculous).

    (And I’d feel better about my unimaginable hatred if we educated everyone first, because that would make it clear who were the idiots and who just lacked the access to information. I will freely admit that I come from an upper-middle-class background with access to a great education and two parents who prized and still prize education and knowledge.)

    That kind of regional strife f*cks people up in every way imaginable, and one of the worst parts of it is that an embarrassing amount of people with better lives actively perpetuate it for the people who have the terrible luck to be born there.

    Especially sexism – I don’t understand it. I never have. As a woman, I am interminably lucky to have never dealt with any sexism myself, and the fact that there are people who assign worth to people based on their genitalia is f*cking horrendous. I am an atheist; religion feeds it, feeds it horribly, and yet one realizes if one looks at the fact that not only is there a commonality between a lot of religions in their oppression of various groups other than ‘them’ but that there are indeed plenty of wacky folks who just happen to be secular (thankfully, this looks like a minority among us though) who just hate on women and gays and other groups – and some of them are even in the groups they hate! – because they apparently just feel like it and they can’t hide behind the (lame) excuse of religiosity, that stuff like religion is just a cover-up of sorts for some people: they mentally haven’t come down from the trees.

    I don’t even feel able to consider huge swaths of my own species – of very mixed colors, including my own, of both sexes, of virtually all cultures – to really be human because of the horrible horrible irrationality and dependence on TRADITION! that infects it. (Tradition can stuff it, for all I care. You need mental quickness and an ability to change your beliefs when reality clashes up against your previously-held beliefs and an ability to adapt – evolution, after all, selects those who adapt.)

    I’m getting to be a bit of a hermit these days.

  5. …oh god, now i’m going to get a frantic email from a reader who started crying because of the misanthropy i just let through….

  6. Danny

    The Swedes, and the world, are shocked. Should they be? From what I can tell the Social Democratic Party of Sweden no longer has a hegemonic grip on Sweden’s politics

    I get the impression that the international press when it discusses elections in Europe makes a big fuss about small nationalist parties that is way beyond their importance. The Swedish Green party made large gains and has become the 3rd largest party in the country – but this seems to be less dramatic than the Swedish Democrats making it. Similarly in Holland Wilders’ success made more of a splash in the press than the Dutch Socialists who made a very good show in the elections before last.

    This is mostly because the issues that the small nationalist parties are concerned with – race, religion, identity, are sexier than the bread and butter issues highlighted by other parties, so these get more attention in the international press, but not that much among the electorates who actually care about local economic issues.

  7. Katharine

    …oh god, now i’m going to get a frantic email from a reader who started crying because of the misanthropy i just let through….

    Is that what that email was about?

    I make people CRY because of the stuff I say that probably isn’t even directed toward them?

    1) those people are rather a bit on the wilting daisy side, and

    2) …AWESOME

  8. divalent

    An interesting side issue looking at the distribution of results are those of Japan, Malaysia, So Korea, Hong Kong and the United States (the US is the cultural/geographical oddball) is the rather disproportionate number that choose “Neither”, when compared to their “peers” (as ranked by % that say “Agree”, or if you rank by “disagree”).

    I’m not sure what “neither” means as a response to these questions; it seems to me you either agree or you don’t, unless you have in mind a situation were some jobs are considered exceptions to a general rule. Unless there was confusion about whether “disagree” meant you would instead *favor* the opposite group (as opposed to a neutral policy), in which case “neither” means “favor neither group” rather than “I neither agree nor disagree with the statement”.

  9. JL

    Danny, Sweden Democrats getting 20 seats and a potential kingmaker role seem to be a huge deal in Sweden, too.

  10. Wayne Gretzky

    Razib, I think, at least for the US, sexism is very very pervasive but people just won’t own up to it. I remember when Hillary was running how bad it was and NO ONE cared. And that’s coming from a dude…

  11. Peter Lund

    Bee, aren’t you glad the Swedes stole NORDITA from Copenhagen? 😉

  12. K(yle)

    On the Nativism metric, one thing to keep in mind about Sweden is, that an immigrant is always an immigrant. They may treat you with fairness, but they will never treat you like a Swede, nor children or grand children if you they are visibly not ethnically Swedish. The are very hospitable to guests, but that is all you will ever be. It really does depend on what you mean by “Nativist”.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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