Pairing: USA vs Japan FIGHT!

October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Let’s say you want to study the relationship between economic inequality and attitude toward the self, with social hierarchy perhaps a common cause. “Attitude toward the self” isn’t well-defined and hard to measure, and there’s little multinational data. What you could do is try to directly compare two countries. You could pick the USA, a highly economically unequal society, and Japan, a relatively economically equal society (forget that Japan is highly hierarchical for the moment).

What else could result in American and Japanese attitudes differing?

  • The US is much more multiracial than Japan
  • The US is mostly Christian, Japan Buddhist and Shinto
  • Japan has universal health insurance
  • Japan lost the Second World War
  • Evangelion was better in the original language

The most fundamental problem is sample size: even if you had identical twin countries, one pair ain’t enough. If you want to draw a strong conclusion from one pair, you need some strong qualitative arguments. If you want strong conclusions from quantitative data, you need quite a bit of data, and strong assumptions on top of that.

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