AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 251

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Session 251: Understanding Asian Societies through AsiaBarometer:Challenges of Comparative Quantitative Analyses

Organizer and Chair: Shigeto Sonoda, University of Tokyo, Japan

Prior qualitative studies have brought us insights into the values, consumption patterns, cultures, political and social developments in Asia. However, those studies were often conducted from a Western perspective and focused on only single societies. To better understand Asian societies from an Asian perspective, AsiaBarometer, the first large-scale survey dealing with daily lives of ordinary people and their relationships to family, neighborhood, workplace, social and political institutions and market places was conducted. From 2003 to 2008, more than 50,000 respondents from 32 countries participated in the survey. This data provides the basis to conduct comparative quantitative studies on Asia. Since 2010, integrated dataset of AsiaBarometer has been made publicly available for the use of researchers. The purposes of this panel are to introduce AsiaBarometer, provide recent examples of research employing the data, and encouraging other scholars to consider using AsiaBarometer in their future research. One of the founding members of the AsiaBarometer will introduce the contents and purposes of the AsiaBarometer. Then, four emerging scholarly groups from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan will showcase how they analyzed different parts of the data from various angles. These presentations demonstrate how the data can be used to seek for theoretical breakthroughs. Two papers in this session will approach subjective dimensions of social stratification and social welfare system at micro level in some East Asian countries while the other two papers will approach macro issues by covering many Asian countries. Ample time will be allocated for discussion and Q&A with the audience.

Understanding the Concept of “Middle Class” in East Asia
Qian Zhou, University of Tokyo, Japan

In current Asian studies, research about the “middle class” can be categorized into the following three areas: political science, economics, and sociology. Some Asian researchers claim that the Asian “middle class” will accelerate the construction of the Asian Community. However, in the face of these academic discussions, we tend to forget two fundamental questions: What is the “middle-class”? And what is the Asian “middle-class”? In an attempt to answer these questions, this study chose to focus on the “middle class” in China, Japan and South Korea. At first, this study reviewed previous studies on the East Asian “middle class”. It was found that scholars tend to use "occupation", "academy degree", "income", "residence", "lifestyle" and many other composite indexes. Secondly, based on analysis of AsiaBarometer dataset, this study tries to identify those so-called “middle class” in East Asia. The data suggests that many defined by scholars as "middle class" do not consider themselves as “middle class”. On the contrary, some people whom scholars do not classify as "middle class" consider themselves as "middle class" nonetheless. Thirdly, this study shows the media images of East-Asian “middle class” as case studies. It was discovered that East Asian media tended to choose specific aspects of the “middle class” and the media images of East Asian “middle class” were based on such stereotypes. Finally, this study re-emphasizes the significant influence of the mass media and the need to rethink the concept of “middle class” from the perspective of media.

Subjective Dimensions of Social Welfare System in East Asia
Akiko Ishioka, Waseda University, Japan

Institutional adjustments are urgently needed for rapidly "Aging East Asia" because existing social welfare system is becoming dysfunctional. The problem is that there is a risk of intensifying public's feeling of unfairness and consequently threatening social stability under the persistent "East Asian" norm that family should be responsible for their own lives. However there seems to be an implicit “common sense” in all countries that subjective feelings are not worthy of consideration when institutional adjustments are discussed in previous social welfare studies which mainly focus on objective environments and life resources. In this paper, multiple regression analysis on five regions of East Asia (Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) was conducted to compare factors, including subjective socio-economic status (SES) and objective SES which define satisfaction level to social welfare system, by using the dataset of AsiaBarometer 2006. As a result, objective SES, namely household income and informant’s academic background, was correlated with the satisfaction with social welfare system in some regions, while the effect of subjective SES was strong is all the regions, which suggests that people who give lower evaluation to their standard of living are more dissatisfied with the social welfare system. The purpose of this study is to illustrate the importance of subjective dimensions of social welfare system which most of the previous studies didn’t think seriously due to their emphasis on objective aspects of social welfare system.

Is there a Relation between Religion and Corruption?
Fabian Jintae Froese, Korea University, South Korea

A plethora of studies has analyzed the antecedents and consequences of corruption. Prior research has established that economic indicators such as GDP per capita and income equality predict corruption. Corruption is more widespread in less developed economies and countries with greater income inequality. While the majority of previous studies investigated the effects of economic indicators, little attention has been paid to culture or religion. Initial research indicated that culture and religion could help further understand the reasons for corruption. However, prior research was usually limited to country-level studies and/or predominantly confined to Western countries. Whereas Christianity dominates in the Western world, Asia is characterized by a plurality of religions. Thus, we know little about how and whether different religions beyond Protestantism and Catholicism affect corruption. Do different religions and associated socialization practices have an impact on corruption? Based on survey results from more than 50,000 respondents in 32 mostly Asian countries, we investigated the role of eight different religions, religiosity, economic indicators, and government performance on individual intentions to bribe government officials. Multilevel regressions results incorporating both individual-level and country-level indicators suggest that religion and religiosity have profound impacts on corruption even after controlling for economic indicators and governance performance. Thravada Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus had higher tendencies to bribe government officials than Catholics, Mahayana Buddhists, Taoists, and atheists. Religiosity had a negative effect on corruption. Theoretical and practical implications will be discussed.

Examining Familism and Political Efficacy in Asia
Zong-Rong Lee, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Ever since Almond and Verba has published their now classic study on Civic Culture (1963) of western democracy in early sixties, the topic of political efficacy and civic participation has attracted enormous scholarly attention from social scientists. In this study we examine one particular dimension of Asian culture—familism—and investigate its relevance with political efficacy across Asian countries. While civic culture indicates individual’s participatory attitude towards the political system and is highly related to public trust, familism is usually related to limited trust and inward-looking emotional attachment to family members of which individual has strong kinship connections. Individuals who have strong inclination of familism may show particularistic and parochial intention in public engagements, and may become counter-productive for social capital and less proactive in playing a role within the political systems, as the latter requires more active participations with public interests. Furthermore, the impact of familism on political efficacy may be mediated by respective traditional cultures and institutional contexts of each country. For example, Confucianism teachings generally impose strong normative role of individual’s political participation with the connotation of familial obligations. Moreover, in societies where better legal and political governance are feasible, the necessity in mobilizing familial resources for political ends may decrease. In other words, causal mechanisms connecting familism to political efficacy may depend on factors such resilience of traditional cultures, level of economic development and governance structure of each country. We examine these theoretical conjectures by analyzing data on 25 Asian countries collected by AsianBarometer survey.