Maps of the World: What Unites & Divides

There has been a set of amusing and edifying maps that have received some attention on the web:

40 Maps They Didn’t Teach You In School

Some I had seen before, but many were new to me. The one that caught my attention was about freedom of press. It is the type of thing that gets me thinking.

The US just gets a satisfactory rating, along with Australia, much of Europe, four countries in South America (including the large Argentina), six countries in Africa, and some of the island countries off the coast of China. Satisfactory isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t great. A rather sad state of affairs for supposedly freedom-loving Americans.

What is more predictable are the countries that get a good rating, although not entirely predictable. Canada, of course, gets a better rating than the good ol’ US of A. Also, a large section of Northern Europe predictably rates well. Among the British Isles, it appears only Ireland has a good rating. What is mind-blowing is that Nambia in Southern Africa rates good as well.

Sadly, America is less than great. More like middling, if anything. But anyone paying attention already knew that.

In response to that map, the Washington Post put out its own sampling of maps:

40 maps that explain the world

What stands out to me is how similar the US is to many countries Americans wouldn’t identify with.

The US is a majority Christian country, like the rest of the Americas and also like the entirety of Southern Africa (the majority of the African continent, in fact). More interestingly, the US has about the same number of atheists as Argentina and Saudi Arabia.

Canada and Europe follow the typical pattern in having more gay rights than the US, but the protected freedom for gays is also higher in South America and South Africa. South America even has high rates of tolerance for gays, although less so in South Africa. The US has moderate tolerance for gays, but we just don’t believe in protecting their rights like other Americans. This tolerance rating doesn’t seem to have anything to do with religion since, for example, Canada has the same atheist rating as the US.

One would suspect that tolerance correlates to diversity. Familiarity and empathy tend to go hand in hand.

Despite being an immigrant nation, the US is only average on the ethnic diversity scale. South America and Africa are more diverse. It says a lot too that Canada is more diverse, as Canada rates better than the US on most measurements (either the American Dream emigrated North or always was there). Europe is shown as the least ethnically diverse region in the world, although Spain a country with millennia of multicultural history is more middling like the US (maybe unsurprising as more than half of the US used to be part of the Spanish Empire; then again, Hispanic Mexico is more ethnically diverse than both the US and Spain).

I must admit I feel suspicious about the ethnic diversity map because I don’t know how ethnic diversity is being defined and measured. The US might be middling simply because the population is so mixed up with ethnic intermarriages. Reading the related article, it sounds more like the researchers were measuring ethnic perception which I’m not sure is the best method. I’m thinking that what is being measured is more about whether people identify more with their nation or with their ethnic group (tribe, clan, etc). Developed countries have show more ethnic homogeneity because more people simply identify with their country.

Racial tolerance is a good measure for comparison. In this, the US and Canada are the same (and also Australia, the other British-founded country). So is most of the rest of the Americas, Central and South. Europe is a mixed bag. Spain has a fair amount of racial tolerance. The most tolerant in Europe are Britain and most northern countries. Interestingly, once again South Africa fits in here as well. Pakistan for some reason also rates well in racial tolerance.

The welcoming to foreigners map offers a different perspective. Racial tolerance may only apply to races within one’s country. Canada seems to be the only country in the world, as far as I can tell from the maps, that rates highly both on racially tolerance and welcoming to foreigners. Canada is beginning to sound like utopia. That said, countries like Mexico, Brazil and South Africa also rate fairly well on both. The US, like Spain, is only middling on this measure. Argentina is one of those countries that, while racially tolerant, isn’t friendly to strangers. The map shows some surprising locations that apparently would be good places to travel in or move to: Turkey, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and a few others.

Some other maps are truly bizarre in their implications.

Why the heck do all the countries in the Americas rate highly emotional?

The US and Canada are one big mass of emotional expressiveness. Another blot of emotion is found down in South America with El Salvador being the second most emotional country in the world. All the countries in the Americas are just plain emotional. Most of the rest of the world is emotionally frigid in comparison. There are some exceptions, though. Like always, Africa is a mix with Angola being highly emotional. The Arab United Emirates and Oman pop up again, along with somewhat higher ratings for many Middle Eastern countries. The Phillipines, former colony of Spain and the US, also rates high (the most emotional country in the world) along with relatively high ratings for the other nearby island countries and Australia (plus, the nearby Southern Asian countries). In Europe, the countries that stand out for their emotionality are France, Spain and Ireland (it’s hard to tell from the map, but it looks like Belgium also rates high).

There are two patterns here that interest me. First, Spanish and English speaking countries tend to be highly emotional. The US gets a double dose on this account. Canada similarly gets a double dose with British and French influence. Second, post-Soviet countries are among the most emotionally stoic. Emotion in Europe appears to generally increase as you move West. The reason for these patterns is not entirely clear to me. Why would the English language correlate to emotionality? The English people aren’t known for emotional effusiveness. On the scale, the English are just moderately emotional. Maybe there is something about the Celtic influence as Ireland rates highly. English-speaking countries like the US do have large amounts of Irish ancestry. Ireland would also relate to France and Spain for the Irish originate from the Basque who live in the border region of those two countries. This might explain an element of the low ratings of the post-Soviet countries for the Celtic populations were most concentrated in Western Europe.

The other odd map is that of feeling loved or not. It seems to fit almost perfectly to the emotional map. The countries that tend to have high rates of emotional expressiveness also tend to have high rates of feeling loved. Maybe that isn’t so odd, after all. How can you know that you’re loved if no one expresses love to you? Anyway, the Americas are one big love-fest.

I purposely saved the Muslim maps for last.

Some Muslim countries want democracy and others less so. Quite a few of the Muslim countries in Africa say they prefer democracy to a strong leader. The same is found with Turkey and Tajikistan along with the Southeast Asian islands and peninsula. However, on either side of Tajikistan are two countries (Kyrgizstan and Pakistan) that are unfriendly to democracy. The Middle East overall is mostly averaging in its support or lack thereof for democracy.

The map of perceived religious conflict within a country is almost a mirror opposite of the pro-democracy map. Does the perceived religious conflict cause a lack of support for democracy? Or vice versa?

The third and final Muslim map shows why generalizing about all Muslims is problematic. It is a map about honor killings, specifically whether they are never justified over female sexual offenses. A few Muslim countries are apparently evenly split between those who say it is never justified and those who disagree. It looks like there are only five Muslim countries with a clear majority who think such vigilante justice is sometimes or always justified. However, most of the Muslim countries rated here have a majority supporting the view that is never justified.

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