December 20, 2014

Transplants more adulterous in practice, and in belief more permissive

Let's take another look at how moral constraints weaken when a person no longer feels bound by the prevailing norms because they are not from the place where they've taken up residence. Every culture officially condemns adultery, but how strongly do individuals believe in that prohibition, and how well do they follow it in practice, when they did not imprint on the regional culture currently surrounding them while growing up?

The General Social Survey asks two questions about adultery -- an opinion question about how wrong you think it is, and a behavior question about whether you've ever cheated on a spouse. To compare apples to apples, first we'll split the respondents into male and female, and then look across education levels within each sex, given that education and upward mobility are a key difference between natives and transplants.

Only those who have ever been married are counted, to ensure that we're not simply observing differences between unhitched transplants and settled-down natives. And only whites have been studied, to control for race.

In this case, "transplant" means living in an entirely different Census region (New England, Pacific, East North Central, etc.) than the one you were living in at age 16.

Starting with the opinion question, here are the percent of respondents who gave a permissive answer about a married person having sex with someone other than their spouse. A permissive response is any answer other than "always wrong." Each line represents education level, where High school is 0-12 years, Undergrad is 13-16, and Graduate is 17-20. Within each line, native responses are first and transplant's second.

Men, native vs. transplant
High school: 18 vs 18
Undergrad_: 25 vs 29
Graduate__: 34 vs 40

Women, native vs. transplant
High school: 15 vs 15
Undergrad_: 22 vs 24
Graduate__: 26 vs 35

For both men and women, transplants are more permissive of adultery, and this gap widens with higher levels of education. There are two other patterns, where men are more permissive than women, and more educated people are more permissive than less educated people. The largest influence on beliefs is education level, then transplant status, and then sex.

Moving onto the behavior question, here are the percent of respondents who said they have ever committed adultery.

Men, native vs. transplant
High school: 19 vs 26
Undergrad_: 20 vs 23
Graduate__: 17 vs 22

Women, native vs. transplant
High school: 12 vs 15
Undergrad_: 12 vs 13
Graduate__: 12 vs 16

Again for both men and women, transplants are more likely than natives to have had an extra-marital affair. Unlike the opinion question, education level is now the smallest influence, and sex the largest influence. Transplant status is now a relatively more influential factor -- being a transplant is almost as powerful a force as being a man, regarding a person's chances of committing adultery.

What's going on with transplants being more likely to hypothetically condone adultery and to actually practice it? A person who is surrounded by a group that he did not imprint on growing up is less likely to feel shame, which only registers when it comes from members of the in-group.

With no childhood and adolescent roots in their region, transplants are less tethered to moral norms -- even when those norms are the same across regions. It's not as though their native region prohibits adultery, while their adopted region lets it slide. They simply don't feel the sting from norm enforcement as strongly when it's coming from folks who are outside of the target's native regional culture.

GSS variables: xmarsex, evstray, regtrans, marital, educ, sex, race

No comments:

Post a Comment

You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."