Scandinavian Unexceptionalism

That is the new IEA book from Nima Sanandaji, freely available here (pdf), introduction by Tom G. Palmer.  Here is one short bit:

The descendants of Scandinavian migrants in the US combine the high living standards of the US with the high levels of equality of Scandinavian countries. Median incomes of Scandinavian descendants are 20 per cent higher than average US incomes. It is true that poverty rates in Scandinavian countries are lower than in the US. However, the poverty rate among descendants of Nordic immigrants in the US today is half the average poverty rate of Americans – this has been a consistent finding for decades. In fact, Scandinavian Americans have lower poverty rates than Scandinavian citizens who have not emigrated. This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Scandinavians rather than Nordic welfare states.

The book has many other points of interest.


"A Scandinavian economist once said to Milton Friedman, ‘In Scandinavia, we have no poverty’. Milton Friedman replied, ‘That’s interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either’."

Why am I not surprised SS is the first to comment here? Been waiting all his life for this post.

Small country outlier, nothing more. The Greek-Americans in fact are exceptions as well, most of them far off to the right of the chart for per capita income. All that I know of are multimillionaires. Similarly, certain descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the New World (Cortes and Pizarro were cousins for example, and many of them were related). Finally, Ginghus Khan has more descendants than anybody else on earth and Mongolia has one of the highest IQs in the world, beating even the US despite their poverty level and tying Singapore at 105 IQ. Proves nothing. Small sample coincidence.

Surprise, surprise, statistics is one more thing you are clueless about

Well, Mongolia got a decent universal education before most poor countries. It was one of the few things Communism did for them, this and killing Mongolians (specially monks)

> Why am I not surprised SS is the first to comment here? Been waiting all his life for this post.

Okay, that got a laugh from me. But probably because I was thinking exactly the same thing...

Mongolia doesn't have that high an IQ. They're a nation of shepherds. I expect it to be in the upper 90s.

Surprisingly to me, Mongolia, according to this chart ranks number 5 in the world:

And again they did achieve universal literacy before most poor countries bothered to try.

Brazil below Laos and Samoa?!

Well I don't want to claim Mongolia cheated, but .... you know.

Anyway, we finally have proof that Steve Sailor is wrong. According to that table the lovely Caribbean island of Saint Lucia has the lowest IQ in the world apart from Equatorial Guinea. And yet they boast the highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners per head of population.

Two. It is a small island.

I don't know how they do it. But Wikipedia may have a clue:

In 1999, the gross primary enrollment rate was 115.1 percent.

I do not trust Lynn.

"Well I don’t want to claim Mongolia cheated, but …. you know."

Um, no, I don't. Can you explain it to us?

Thinking that list is from 1800.

Well, not science ones, the Holy Grail of genetic snobbery, but Singapore got naught too, Japan, the Koreas and, I guess, China are underepresented. Anyway, I think Saint Lucia is much more functional than most underveloped countries. Maybe IQ is overrated after all... As for the Mongolians, I really think they probably are every bit as smart as the Chinese and the Vietnamese.

The world should get rid of IQ. It's pathetic.

In fact, Scandinavian Americans have lower poverty rates than Scandinavian citizens who have not emigrated. This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Scandinavians rather than Nordic welfare states.

The second sentence does not follow from the first (hence the weasel-word "suggests"). If Scandinavian cultural norms of deliver some advantage to individuals, then they have a good chance of acheiving high positions relative other Americans and thus a good standard of living. Within their home countries, Scandinavians compete against one another and someone has to lose. Welfare states might well be responsible for ameliorating this.

Even more, it 'suggests' that Scandinavians have somehow retained their 'cultural norms' in the U.S., a country noted for how groups are assilimated into America's own 'cultural norms,' while those same Scandinavian 'cultural norms' are no longer retained in Scandinavia. Well, except for the fact that the Nordic countries remain in the top group of wealthy nations, not even including Norway - oil is not exactly a cultural norm, after all.

Ask someone from California of oil development is a cultural issue.

You missed an opportunity here, "prior." The cause is obvious: blonde privilege.

Within their home countries, Scandinavians compete against one another and someone has to lose. Welfare states might well be responsible for ameliorating this.

Why precisely does someone have to lose? What makes you think that economic development is a zero-sum game?

I think he just means winding up in the bottom half of a distribution. If Scandinavian Americans were, somehow, all above average (wink) there are other Americans who can take up the below-average spaces, while in Scandinavia that is not the case and half the population (which is, let's say for the sake of argument is entirely Scandinavian) will be below average.

Larry Siegel June 27, 2015 at 4:03 am

while in Scandinavia that is not the case and half the population (which is, let’s say for the sake of argument is entirely Scandinavian) will be below average.

But they are not looking at the median income. They are looking at poverty. Which is usually dishonestly defined as less than 60% of average income. So what it is measuring is the extent to which Swedish Americans cluster around the middle. Not too many people at one tail of the distribution. But not too many people at the other either.

So basically Swedes in America are boring. They don't try to be musicians. But they don't found Facebook either.

There is no reason why in Sweden Swedes would be any less boring. They took seem to cluster. Which means half the population will be below average but the tail at either end will be small.

Swedes in Sweden have founded lots of interesting companies.

Are they counting immigrants in the stats on Scandinavian countries?

But that's not how it works in Lake Wobegon.

There is no other comedian who so prominently stands at the nexus of beloved and unfunny.

Because, as Larry points out, I am talking specifically about relative position. I do *not* think that life is a zero sum game, but do I think it is pretty plausible that the poorest 10% in even a rich country is having a fairly hard time, at least by the standards of rich countries. The observation about relative poverty rates does nothing to tell us whether or not the welfare state is ameliorating that poverty.

'Plausible'. Sounds like a weasel-word.

Scandinavians are not trapped in their home countries. Thanks to Schengen they have two dozen other countries they can move to, and far more with a simple work visa procedure. If, as you suggest, being in a country surrounded by competent and productive workers is deleterious to your own economic success, Swedes should be immigrating to Greece and getting filthy rich by the droves. I myself am considering relocating to Mozambique. Its working-age populations weak competition (median 1.1 years of education) will guarantee an excellent standard of living for myself.

No, I am talking about a selection effect. The poorest ten percent of people in a country of compentent, virtuous people is better off than they would be in failing polity. But that is not the comparison being discussed.

Let's be concrete. Suppose Knud the Dane is fairly lazy and not very intelligent, but some hypthetical virtue of Danish social norms partially corrects these flaws. That means if he goes to America he has an edge in the job market compared to the other lazy, slow-witted people. Thus he ends up at Walmart instead of the dole queue.

Now if he stays in Denmark he has no advantage at all in the hunt for dead-end jobs. Fortunately for him, the diligent, inteligent people who get the best jobs in all countries are able to produce a surplus which can pay his dole check.

If poverty was simply a matter of someone not having money, maybe. But it isn't. If you look at North America and find poverty it has certain very very visible characteristics; the native reserves in Canada, the inner city predominantly african american, some pockets of culturally cohesive and distinct southern white populations, as well as single mothers and their children.

What this study shows is a pasty white strong cultural norm within a very small population (there are 20.7 million people in Norway, Sweden and Finland, there are 41.7 million african americans in the US) can have certain characteristics. Very visible and identifiable cultural norms oddly end up with very visible and identifiable economic results. Golly gee.

?????? A proper conception of cooperation and the public good?

If you think that most social interactions are zero-sum, then literally every country in the world should be misgoverned, and most attempts at democracy should turn into the kind of survivalistic, familistic, chaotic mess in India or the Middle East.

Most Asian and South European societies have zero-sum competition issues, so there is a tendency for corporations to stay family-owned and small, unless the state creates powerful champions. Their diasporas do pretty well, better than in their home countries, as you know doubt know. They've got to escape the crabs in the barrel. But Japan, the US+the Anglosphere and Germany are not like that, which is why the largest, longest-lived organically developed brands come from there.

A bit for you to chew over:

Here is a great paper talking about ethnic origins (Not just white, black, but also finer distinctions like Scandinavian, French, Irish, Anglo, etc.) in American counties and the correlations with wealth. Scandinavians come out well in both trust and wealth.

"While the human capital of immigrants,
and measures of origin institutions positively predict county GDP, our results suggest that cultural attitudes towards cooperation play the most important and robust role in explaining local

In the Raj Chetty's giant new study of tax returns, Sioux County, Iowa comes up as the single best county in the U.S. for working class families to raise their kids in. It's also the most Dutch county in the U.S.

I offer an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Chetty's approach in Taki's Magazine:

I guess that the Scots, Irish, and English ruined America.

@ Adrian Ratnapala. I don't think that "suggests" is a weasel word. They are simply saying that this is the most reasonable explanation for their data. One does not have to agree.

Well, this is a little embarrassing. It turns out that in Lake Woebegone all the children are above average.

That is a recurrent theme throughout Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion: Nordic Superiority, at least compared to those semi-human Texans.

Presumably the only thing that saves Keillor from smugness and perhaps accusations of racism is that sneer at Texans and the right in general. If you take the overt politics out, you are, as you say, left with a covert lesson in Nordic Superiority. After all, what lessons would Lake Woebegone have for Detroit?

If you actually read his books or listened to the show you would get the joke: he makes fun of Norwegians mercilessly, not to mention Lutherans.

Perhaps it takes an above-average IQ to appreciate it.

The Original D June 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

If you actually read his books or listened to the show you would get the joke: he makes fun of Norwegians mercilessly, not to mention Lutherans.

Wasn't that my point? Keillor's schtick is good natured fun. He is not really laughing as Norwegians or Lutherans. He is celebrating. In a way that does not get accusations of racism.

Perhaps it takes an above-average IQ to appreciate it.

So I am told.


A word never before used to describe his humor, and for good reason

The superior Mr. Keillor hasn't lived in Minnesota for 30 years and has spread his 2 children over 3 marriages (or 4, if you count the discarded-like-a-pair-of-old-shoes Margaret Moos).

Keillor owns the finest mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota:

Keillor makes lots of affectionate jokes about his home state and his ethnicity, but it's obvious he takes a healthy pride in them.

My mistake. He moved the program back there.

I don't find that obvious about Keillor at all. He makes a good living playing that person. He's actually repudiated his upbringing pretty thoroughly.

I don't think trashing Garrison Keillor's personal life as a strawman is going to make your point for you.

I don’t think trashing Garrison Keillor’s personal life as a strawman is going to make your point for you.

1. The phrase 'personal life as a strawman' is incoherent.

2. My point is that Mr. Sailer's thesis about what he values is untenable. The demonstration of that is how he actually behaves.

Let's not forget his bitterness at Jews for meddling with Christmas.

Yes, I was being too harsh there.

It has the logical structure of a weasel-word, in that the authors know that their next claim doesn't really follow from the premise but they want to make the connection anyway. But these shades of evidence are important to scholars, and so it is legitimate for them to mark the shadings with such "weasel words".

They certainly ruined Appalachia.

Appalachian counties are not 'ruined'. They are merely less affluent than national means by 20-30%. Personal income per capita in West Virginia is higher than that of a number of European countries (e.g. Italy). That's not surprising given that the region is predominantly rural and small town and has perhaps a dozen 3d and 4th tier cities, nothing larger. West Virginia (to take one example) does not have notably elevated unemployment rates nor does it have depressed labor force participation. Some of the local economies therein have suffered in ways characteristic of loci reliant on extractive industries, whether or not they're occupied with Scots-Irish. There has also been a problem with deforestation in the past. That's not the pathology of the Scotch-Irish. That's what happens when you rely too much on property taxes.

Do try to think in something other than caricatures.

It was just a joke. I certainly don't think a certain ethnic group ruined Appalachia, or that it is truly ruined. There are of course lot of issues the region faces that go beyond property taxes and coal.

Too many friggin Protestants.

"Within their home countries, Scandinavians compete against one another and someone has to lose."

OP wasn't talking about hockey.

lol at "cultural norms"--you really mean genetics, no?

Actually, quite likely not. In this case, the fact that both groups are presumably identical means that the Institute of Economic Affairs is pursuing its long running goal of denigrating any system except its own vision of capitalist paradise.

Really probably not, as the author is Kurdish.

Aren't the Kurds the Scandinavians of the Middle East?

Yes and no. I think Tunisians are more so.

Tunisia is in North Africa, not the Middle East.

"Middle East" is nowadays more a cultural term than a geographic one.

The author of the forward says: "The comparison of Nordic populations with their cousins who decamped for the US, which forms a small but interesting part of Sanandaji’s analysis, suggests that when pundits praise, say, Swedish healthcare by looking at longevity, what they are measuring is not the impact of the Swedish health financing system, but of Swedishness, whether in diet, genetic inheritance or behaviour."

On diet, one interesting facet on health is that under direct measurement ( - The geographic distribution of obesity in the US and the potential regional differences in misreporting of obesity) Minnesota is the second most obese state in the USA, despite a more Nordic population, while the Nordic nations tend to be slim within Europe (at least according to EU data).

This actually differs from when people are asked about their weight and height - article on this - "Howard said as far as equivalency between the self-reported and measured data sets, the East South Central region showed the least misreporting" (in weight and height).

Not everyone adheres to vulgar Sailerism.

Well they should it's the only scientific way to view the world everything else is a whole lot of feel-good-fluff.

What a surprise. Culture matters. Sweden is full of Swedes. Hence...

This is the folly of comparing the US with other countries (usually small homogeneous European countries). Unless you're controlling for the ethnicity of the people, you're missing the biggest explanation. Of course, saying this, is "racist", hence it can't be said.

So you're saying that if America looks bad by comparison, it's due to the fact that it's full of Americans?

Is that really such a strange thing to say or think?

America doesn't look bad by comparison. It's the logic of the Left to compare the US unfavorably with the 2-3 European examples it can find on whatever metric they want to compare against the US, and say "see, why can't we be like them!"

But they'd never be caught dead saying that maybe those 2-3 tiny European countries they uphold as the idea human societies...have something...unusual about them. Mainly, that they are tiny homogeneous societies of Swedes and Danes and Norwegians, and maybe, Swedes and Danes and Norwegians just happened to be "different" (read: better) than everyone else.

I.e., they always forget about demography! And yet that seems to be one of the major explanations for all the "ills" the Left seems to find about America relative to the 2-3 tiny European countries it considers heaven on earth.

I wonder if they realize that by extension, they are making a an argument that there is no such thing as cultural relativism. Some cultures, just might be better than others ;)


The U.S. has a high rate of homicide, and, I believe, rape and robbery as well. Ethnography might help you to understand that, but it's boots on the ground that help you contain and reverse that. Other ways in which the United States compares unfavorably to Europe and Japan are largely a function of public policy: bad urban planning, disorganized transit systems, fragmented local government superintending fragmented police services, and the imposition of property taxes on impecunious neighborhoods.

Europe has higher rates of violent crime...

Cliff June 27, 2015 at 12:01 pm
Europe has higher rates of violent crime

What? Evidence?

Urban policy in the US is much better than Europe or Japan. I'll take Houston TX any day over anything else. Thanks.

I'll take Perpignan.

One of the worst MR memes goes "we can't even try because we, not me of course, but we, aren't homogeneous."

A self fulfilling meme of racial, or racist, failure.

You know, I think you have that the wrong way around. It is not that we get failure because we have an assumption about homogeneity. It is that we have been trying for 40 years with absolutely no signs of success. That needs an explanation.

Everyone thought that lifting the burden of slavery blah blah blah would be easy. It has not been. We now have two generations of failure. We need to explain that. Say what you like about Steve Sailor, and I don't agree with him on most things genetic, at least he is trying to offer an explanation. What are you offering? More of the same? Einstein said something about trying the same old thing and expecting a different out come.

Two generations isn't exactly a long time, unless you're suggesting that you aren't culturally influenced by your grandparents.

Its not saying that. Its saying that you maybe shouldn't use Scandinavia as your benchmark or your ideal.

and that merely copycatting their institutions may not work: see US nation building efforts.

What "so much for subtetly" and Harun said.

You're missing the point by a mile. This is about looking and discovering what is, not what you want it to be.

Problem is not that we don't try, it's that the initial premise is wrong. The US is large and varied. It's citizens are, on average, richer and better taken care of than most countries. When comparisons are made, they are refined to Scandinavian-American vs Scandinavians, and Japanese-Americans vs Japanese, rather than the simpler Japanese vs Americans.. rightfully so.

African Americans do bring down the averages in these comparisons,but we forget that African Americans also compare favorably to Africans in income, health, and virtually any other measure. The additional thought this requires is neither racist, not of failure.

"Culture matters."

The thought policed will come after you for saying that.

It would be helpful if one of those thought police types that are always monitoring this website would tell us what is the allowed conclusion for this work. If it is for cultural reasons that Scandies do better than say other ethnicities in the US isn't that an insult to the cultural practices of other ethnicities? But if the alternative is genetic, isn't that a even worse conclusion. So which one am I allowed to choose? Or do I have to criticise the data as being invalid in some way and that "real" truth is that there is no socioeconomic difference between any ethnicity - in which case no need for any affirmative action right?

The correct response is to : (a) assert that the data and the classifications are meaningless since they do not align with dogma, and (b) assert that AI was created to correct and punish those who have discriminatory views.

Applicable on the flip-side for most of America's comparative social problems: inequality, crime, health, education. Europe's Muslim populations do just as bad if not worse on these metrics as American blacks or Mexicans. In fact comparing apples to apples, America's Muslim population is overall far more successful and integrated than Europe's. In general all Western societies seem to have major problems with racial integration, but Europe has been mighty critical of the US for a long time. Now that they're actually grappling with not insignificant minority populations, they're starting to look a lot closer to the Jim Crow South than enlightened tolerant welfare states.

Comparing Europe's and America's Muslim population is not comparing apples to apples. These are not the same people. Just one example: Turks in Germany are mainly from the Anatolian hinterland and have low education and high religiosity. Turks in America are mainly from urban areas, are highly educated and secularized.

Europe's Mexican population is far more successful than America's.

Actually, my own European country's Muslim population does better than the locals. It's for the same reason as America: they came for opportunity, not because it was the closest European country or the country which colonised them.

What European country are you talking about?
"Muslim population does better than the local"

Its not in Scandinavia, Germany, France, UK, Spain, Italy, Austria or Benelux.

Maybe it is in Andorra og San Marino?

It helps that there are only 7 of them.

"Europe’s Mexican population is far more successful than America's."

If a Mexican can afford to move to Europe, they are probably doing pretty well already, whereas Mexicans moving to the US are usually among the least educated and affluent.

So is Sweden really close to Muslim countries, or did it colonize them?

Not really... have you ever been to Europe?... I am almost sure they still do much better than african-americans in all those indicators (except maybe people from Somalia).

"Not really… have you ever been to Europe?… I am almost sure they still do much better than african-americans in all those indicators (except maybe people from Somalia)."

Really,Have you looked at the stats?

Black household income in the US 2010: $30,144. Black education: In 2008, 19.6 percent of all African Americans over the age of 25 held a college degree.

I guess there is something in between genetics and culture.

Let's call it anthropology.

In Italy we say: one face, one race

One pre-existing "cultural norm" Scandinavians bring over is the color of their skin. How do their income/poverty rates compare to other white people in the US?

Census numbers for 2013 put median income for whites 12% over the US median. Poverty rates, 9.6% whites vs. 14.5% general population. The effect of being Scandinavian might be a tad overstated.

White people aren't all the same.Scandinavians have a significantly higher IQ than say Serbians. You can see the effect of being Scandinavian by comparing Norway to Serbia.

Nothing to do with Communism or Hanseatic/Atlantic trade or centuries of colonialism by Turks? No, it's definitely a thing we can't actually measure. That's right.

Chinese Americans, well many of the recent ones, have their own history of Communism and centuries of colonialism by the Turks' distant relatives, the Manchus.

So they must be dirt poor right?

Anyone knows how wealthy Serbian Americans (aka the people of Nikola Tesla) are? I don't. Any stats on it?

Italians have a history of conquering and administering most of the Western world. They must all be rich, right?

Why not adduce evidence re how the Serb genome differs from the Slovene genome, if that's your thesis.

M June 27, 2015 at 5:44 am

Anyone knows how wealthy Serbian Americans (aka the people of Nikola Tesla) are? I don’t. Any stats on it?

Americans who came through Ellis Island, in a generic sense, tended to remain urban because industrialization was already hitting US agriculture. That means they are richer than the populations that came through before that. Polish Americans are richer than WASPs.

The Original D June 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Italians have a history of conquering and administering most of the Western world. They must all be rich, right?

Italy conquered and administered most of the Western world. Not sure that means Italians did.

Art Deco June 27, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Why not adduce evidence re how the Serb genome differs from the Slovene genome, if that’s your thesis.

It is not. I prefer a cultural explanation whenever one is possible.

Before the concept of "whites" had absorbed Spaniards, Italians, Irishmen and Southern Germans into the fold, one had to be a "WASP" to gain entry into the establishment, which Scandinavians were.

Contrary to what academic attention-whores have been telling you, the "Irish" have always been white, and my great-great granddaddy was very much a part of the establishment in Rochester, his potato famine immigrant roots notwithstanding.

No Irish giu ever looked like that. I thought you were going back to

If WASPs were the only whites, why did they need to spell it out - White Anglo Saxon Protestant?
A bit redundant, no?

When the poverty rate is defined by the treatment of a community kept in bondage, sharecropping and red-lined into ghettos for hundreds of years, should we really be surprised by this finding? People who weren't subjected to racial discrimination had better outcomes. The answer is for Sweden to have more racial discrimination so poverty there is defined more brutally.

Millian June 27, 2015 at 4:57 am

When the poverty rate is defined by the treatment of a community kept in bondage, sharecropping and red-lined into ghettos for hundreds of years, should we really be surprised by this finding?

And yet Chinese Americans are not doing too badly. Despite a history of share cropping and bondage. Virtually all Chinese are a generation or two removed from slavery.

And red lining was a gift of some lovely real estate to the African American community. Because of red lining, African Americans got to live in really nice brown stones downtown in places like New York - property that was worth millions when red lining was abolished and White yuppies moved in. It was a type of subsidy to the African American community.

People who weren’t subjected to racial discrimination had better outcomes.

You mean like Chinese Americans? Who are richer than WASPs. Or Japanese Americans? Who are also richer than WASPs. Or perhaps you mean Jewish Americans?

Aren't the vast majority of Chinese Americans immigrants who arrived in the last 30 years, rather than descendants of a population that was heavily discriminated against here in the US? Also note that recent immigrants from Africa tend to do quite well. It seems we are talking about different populations here, only one of which seems to have the history Millian was referring to.

A substantial share of recent Asian migrants arrived on visas conditions on their high level of skill or education in medicine or engineering or another STEM field. Although, obviously there are exceptions, like Amerasian children, spouses and family members of U.S. servicemen from Southeast Asia, who have enjoyed much less economic success.

Let's try Vietnamese, then.

The drive of an emigrant, be he Asian, African or European, is quite different from natives, that's why they tend to do well when given the opportunity and that's why they are despots/failing societies favorite scapegoats when something is going wrong.

My family has been living in ghettos for almost a thousand years, until the 1800's, has during that time been persecuted, discriminated, harassed, murdered, expelled, and when the ghettos were finally done with this culminated in almost 50% being gassed or otherwise exterminated around 70 years ago.

"People who weren’t subjected to racial discrimination had better outcomes" is simply untrue.

My family, survivors of this eternal racial discrimination which has been going since being expelled from Israel for the first time now 2700 years ago, are doing fine and in the highest 10% in income since coming to the US, way better than many here who have not been subjected to racial discrimination as much (at least until 1965).

So how do you explain it?

During the times of slaves, the railroads were built, and mines dug by Chinese, Italians, Irish, and Germans because slaves' lives were too valuable to wasted on such endeavours.

On the US General Social Survey, income in constant dollars by self identified ethnic group is like this, for Scandis and a few other NW European groups:

Norway - 30,773.84 (sample size, weighted N: 541.3/23,322.8)
Sweden - 36,947.52 (sample size, weighted N: 489.9/23,322.8)
Denmark - 33,730.49 (sample size, weighted N: 208.2/23,322.8)
Finland - 34,580.78 (sample size, weighted N: 129.2/23,322.8)
Scotland - 37,182.65 (sample size, weighted N: 959.5/23,322.8)
England & Wales - 35,601.34 (sample size, weighted N: 3531.2/23,322.8)
Ireland - 33,958.94 (sample size, weighted N: 3437.8/23,322.8)
American Only - 27,950.02 (sample size, weighted N: 224.4/23,322.8)
White Americans overall - 33,226.76 (sample size, weighted N: 23,322.8)

SD for income in constant dollars looks a little higher for Swedes (more in group variability), similar for all others but this is hard to measure, perhaps.

Years of education (I won't give the weighted N to save space, they're larger than the above, total 38,306.8 and proportionate to that) - Norway - 13.15, Sweden - 13.64, Denmark - 13.47, Finland - 12.64, Scotland 13.67, England & Wales - 13.67, Ireland - 13.15, American Only - 11.41, White Americans overall - 13.05.

Percentage Yes "Ever been convicted of a crime?" for males unfortunately, have too small a sample sizes at only 487.5, so they're really too noisy to compare that one.

Variable - conrinc, ethnic, educ, convictd. control - race, sex.

It would be hard to separate out cause and effect here, but is it perhaps the case that Scandinavian Americans do so well because they are concentrated in states that have high incomes? Look at Minnesota, Dakotas, Washington, Wisconsin etc.

I think you may find that States don't have income. People do. Russia has a lot of territory just like Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin etc. It is Siberia. Siberia doesn't have high income either. Nor do the Russians who live there.

Suppose we swapped the population of Jamaica and Wisconsin. What do you think would happen?

But even Minnesota is < 1/3 people of Scandinavian descent. Did those people "make" that state, or is it the other way around? I am not convinced the cause and effect flows that way.

I don't know how Norwegians would have done in Jamaica! I am sure it helped that these people settled in places that were pretty similar to their home countries.

Russia has a lot of territory just like Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin etc. It is Siberia. Siberia doesn’t have high income either. Nor do the Russians who live there.

The predominant biome in Siberia is "Taiga" or boreal forest. You only see that in the most northerly counties of Minnesota, which tend to be sparsely populated bar Duluth. You do not see it in the Dakotas at all, which are in a steppe biome which you see in Siberia primarily in the borderlands near Kazakhstan and Mongolia. In Wisconsin, you have a northern strip where you have boreal or mixed forest. In Canada, urban development tends to be in areas of mixed forest or steppe. Denmark's in a broadleaf zone, as are the urbanized portions of Sweden. It's only in Finland, Norway, and Iceland that you see modern affluence in a boreal zone not tributary to a temperate zone.

"I think you may find that States don’t have income. People do."

This from the man who advises us upthread that Italy conquered most of the western world but he is not so sure about Italians.

*Slow clap.*

So much for subtlety, amirite?

Another interesting parallel that isn't mentioned, is that secularization is very advanced among Scandinavian descendants in the U.S., just as it is in Scandinavia itself. At the time of immigration, the Lutheran church was the established state church and almost all of the immigrants to the U.S. from Scandinavia kept the faith as reliably as they would have at home.

But now, Scandinavia is disestablishing the church and abandoning the churches, and the main Lutheran denominations in the U.S. that can trace its origins to Scandinavian descendants (the ELCA) is also in free fall in terms of shrinking rolls and emptying pews. According to the January 2013 edition of the Lutheran magazine (an ELCA publication):

"Nearly 30 percent of ELCA churches reported an average worship attendance of fewer than 50 people in 2010. From 2003 to 2011, average weekley worship attendance dropped 26 percent. And from 2009 to 2010, ELCA membership decreased 5.9 percent, the sharpest decline among mainline denominations according to the National Council of Churches. . . . "Since the inception of the ELCA, we've seen decline every year, and it has accelerated over the last five years," said Elizabeth Eaton bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod . . . . More than 1000 ELCA churches [about 10% of the total] have closed over the past 10 years, some merging with others, some simply shutting their doors and dispersing."

is also in free fall in terms of shrinking rolls and emptying pews.


That's pretty much the deal with all the liberal protestant denominations, whether they have a Scandinavian foundation or not. These congregations have decayed into social clubs for nice people run by den mothers on salary. (Some of the den mothers are male). They have weekly singalongs, an insipid lecture no one can make sense of but the lecturer, a weekly coffeeklatch (with wretchedly watered down coffee and 3d rate store-bought cookies) occasional potluck suppers (gag), and some petty social service programs. The one congenial thing they do often neglected is visit sick people. The whole enterprise is so silly and half-assed its a wonder anyone shows up at all.

(Non-spurious Christian congregations are declining as well, but at a much slower pace; the Francis program for the occidental churches is to make the Catholic Church just like all the others, but with a dose of sanctimonious Peronism added in).

The Scandinavian immigrants to the US possessed the Protestant work ethic to a higher degree than any other group. Generally these people were rural farmers and small businessmen in communities where everyone knew the affairs of everyone else. Farmers can observe the industry of their neighbors by simply looking out the window or going to town. This situation tended to reinforce productive behavior in a way that the current life style does not.

While there has been a marked decline in the influence of the Lutheran church among the descendents of the Scandinavian immigrants many of the features of its morality and value system remain. Hard work and frugality are the norm. Many of them have joined the post-WWII flight from the countryside to the suburbs but those that have remained in the agricultural heartland embody the characteristics that make Scandinavians successful. They are a kind of societal reserve that maintains the Protestant work ethic.

As the descendent of such Scandinavian Lutherans, and one that has maintained familial links from Scandia, Kansas to Orebro, Sweden, I can attest to a culture of frugality, kindness, and a strong work ethic. I don't see much difference between those that have abandoned the pew and those that haven't. There are definitely strong societal norms. I somewhat jokingly ascribe them to our Pagan roots. Christianity accommodated them well (cf. the Christmas tree and other influences), but they are not reliant on Christianity and are capable of flourishing in secular societies as well. Heck, most days of the week are still named in honor of those pagan Gods. The influences have obviously had some staying power.

It's not the welfare state over there; it's the organized labor state of affairs (as in HIGH UNION DENSITY) over there that makes all the difference. With high union density you also get a fair and balanced political forum -- not owned by billionaires -- nice bonus.

Well some countries with high Union density do well. Others, not so well.
Cherrypick much?

BREAKING: Well-off, well-educated and (anecdotally) good-looking white people do well in America. News at 11!

There is a selection problem. The Scandinavians who had the courage to emigrate were more entrepreneurial than the average Scandinavian. Same phenomenon with Dutch emigrants to Canada, US and Australia.

I'd rethink Australia. Most of their first white inhabitants did not go there by choice. No courage needed. Interestingly they are still doing well.

He said Dutch emigrants

Sorry for the misread.

I guess this blog would be really helpful and inspiring too. Great share!

Says a Scandinavian spammer!

As a Scandinavian American I would say yes we are raised in a different culture. Stiff handshakes, few hugs, and high expectations.

Pretty high social responsibility as well.

So, Scandinavian Americans are just like the classic WASP, then?

Perhaps more like a Jewish / Italian fantasy of what a 'classic WASP' is like.

The Nordic immigrants who left for the US were not some destitute peasants. Rather they were skilled wood workers and such, who often had a job in the US arranged even before they left Sweden. Also, many of them came from relatively affluent households, but didn't partake in inheritance due to primogeniture, which compelled them to find a better paying job in the states rather than become a soldier or a hireling back in their home countries. A prospect which was distinctly unappealing in comparison. They came to the US with money in their pockets, a job waiting for them in the states and so on. The Swedes that moved to the US were not from the lower classes... So the racist conclusion that cultural factors ensured Nordic dominance strikes me as pretty contrived.

Agree. Here's a fun exercise. Replace "Scandinavian" with "Asian" in the quote:

The descendants of Asian migrants in the US combine the high living standards of the US with the high levels of equality of Asian countries. Median incomes of Asian descendants are 20 per cent higher than average US incomes. ... the poverty rate among descendants of Asian immigrants in the US today is half the average poverty rate of Americans – this has been a consistent finding for decades. In fact, Asian Americans have lower poverty rates than Asian citizens who have not emigrated. This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Asians ...

I excised the stuff relating to the home countries, but the rest is surprisingly still apt. What crock.

What, exactly, is the crock? You appear to be arguing that because one thing is like another, neither can exist.

Don't genetically gifted people do things like what you described? They have the IQ to gain skills, think ahead, make arrangements in a foreign country etc? If you think cultural factors is a cause that denotes racism then how do you like the genetics explanation?

Making arrangements in the country before moving there was scarcely unique to the Scandinavians.

These IQ arguments are really lame and lazy.

My 2 great grandfather's sisters who immigrated from Norway to Minnesota a bit over 100 years ago had no special skills. Neither did their husbands. Scandinavian immigrants were off course tempted by the homestead act and free land, but many ended up as hired hands in fishing and forestry. Also, it has been well known for more than 100 years that Norwegian towns paid for boat tickets to America for those that are public burdens:

" but didn’t partake in inheritance due to primogeniture,"

Pure mythology that refuses to go away.

"This suggests that pre-existing cultural norms are responsible for the low levels of poverty among Scandinavians rather than Nordic welfare states."

Generally, but not absolutely; Nordic states also have robust investment in health and education, and emigrants as a group (particularly those who come to America) are going to be healthier and better-educated than Americans.

The vast majority of Scnadinavian emigration to the US was in the 1880s and very early 1900s. If you looks at Scandinavian-Americans as a group, you are looking at a group who have sufficient family stability to follow their family history back 100-150 years. That in itself eliminates a number of people from turbulent family backgrounds.

Compare Scandinavian-Americans to Scandinavians selected for coming from 100 + year olf families and see what results you get.

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