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The World Values Survey is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging survey of human values ever undertaken. It is an ongoing academic project by social scientists to assess the state of sociocultural, moral, religious and political values of different cultures around the world. Its results are largely available on the project's internet website.[1]


The World Values Survey first emerged out of the European Values Study (EVS) in 1981, when the methods of a successful European study were extended to 14 countries outside Europe. The 1981 study nevertheless covered only 22 countries worldwide. The EVS was conducted under the aegis of Jan Kerkhofs and Ruud de Moor and continues to be based in the Netherlands at the Tilburg University. The leading figure in the early extension of the surveys around the world was Ronald Inglehart from the University of Michigan, USA.

The survey was repeated after an interval of about 10 years in the second of what came to be termed "waves". One of the aims of the project came to be the longitudinal (as well as cross-cultural) measurement of variation of values. Further waves followed the second wave at intervals of approximately 5 years.

Due to the European origin of the project, the early waves of the WVS were eurocentric in emphasis, with especially weak representation in Africa and South-East Asia. To expand, the WVS adopted a strongly decentralised structure. Suitable academic representatives from new countries were free to join in a quasi-democratic network. Joining meant that new representatives had to conduct the pre-defined survey in their own country with at least 1000 interviewees. They could then exchange their data with the WVS in return for the data from the rest of the project. Funding was primarily local, with representatives in each country funding their own part of the project. In this way the WVS grew out of its eurocentric origins to embrace 42 countries in the 2nd wave, 54 in the 3rd wave and 62 in the 4th wave.

Today the database of the WVS has been published on the internet with free access. The Secretariat of the WVS is based in Sweden.

Methodology and scope

The WVS methodology consists of the administration of detailed questionnaires in face-to-face interviews. The questionnaires from all five waves (including the incomplete 2005/2006 wave) can be viewed in full on the WVS website. The questionnaires from the most recent waves have consisted of about 250 questions. In each country the questionnaires are administered to about 1000 to 3500 interviewees, with an average in the 4th wave of about 1330 interviews per country and a worldwide total of about 92000 interviews.


The WVS questionnaire consists of about 250 questions resulting in some 400 to 800 measurable variables. A few examples are as follows:

  • Happiness. Perceptions of happiness were measured and this part of the WVS is that most widely quoted by the press.[2] The popular statistics website Nationmaster publishes a simplified world happiness scale derived from the WVS data. The WVS website allows a more sophisticated level of analysis than Nationmaster, such as comparison of happiness over time or across socio-economic groups. One of the most striking shifts in happiness measured by the WVS was the substantial drop in happiness of Russians and some other Eastern European countries during the 1990's.
  • The Inglehart Map[3] is another of the most well-known results of the WVS survey. A number of variables were condensed into two dimensions of cultural variation (known as "traditional v. secular-rational" and "survival v. self-expression"), and on this basis the world's countries could be mapped into specific cultural regions. The WVS claims: "These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators".[4]
  • The survey found that trust and democracy were values that crossed most cultural boundaries. The survey also showed that sex equality was one of the most significant differences between Western and other cultures.

Reception and criticism

The Dutch intercultural researcher Geert Hofstede postively receives the WVS results. Referring specifically to Inglehart's two-dimensional reduction of his results as represented by the Inglehart Map, Hofstede claims that it supports his own work. "Inglehart's key cultural dimensions were significantly correlated with [my] dimensions. Well-being versus survival correlated strongly with individualism and masculinity; secular-rational versus traditional authority correlated negatively with power distance."[5]

See also

  • Eurobarometer
  • Post-materialism


  1. ^  The interactive database allows querying of approx. 400 variables (January 2006), but the website itself says that the database covers 800 variables. It is possible that many of these variables were no longer tracked after the second wave, when the number of questions dropped from 379 to under 250. See WVS website for details.
  2. ^  e.g. Template:News reference (quoting a New Scientist report); Template:News reference
  3. ^  The Inglehart Map
  4. ^  ibid.
  5. ^  Hofstede, Geert (2001). Cultures Consequences, Sage Publications. ISBN 0803973233.

, pp.33-34.


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External links

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