Migrants are a unique group of individuals that clearly demonstrate how the significance of various values depends on the sociocultural and economic environment. Academic research is plagued by the idea that core life values such as openness to change and self-esteem remain unchanged throughout a person’s entire life. Rudnev’s research, however, showed that migrants’ values are subject to change after moving to a new country.
During his work on the project Maksim Rudnev analyzed the link between the individual values of intra-European migrants and the values that dominate in their country of birth and their host country. The results of the research were published in the international journal The Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, JCCP.
Data from five waves of the European Social Survey (ESS) between 2002 and 2010 served as the basis for analysis in the study. This research included 233,000 respondents from 34 countries, including post-Soviet states.
The subsample consisted of over 11,000 respondents that were determined by two criteria. Firstly, the respondent did not live in his or her native country, and secondly, the respondent’s home country was one covered by ESS.
As concerns the sociodemographic characteristics of the migrants in the study, 42% were men and 58% women; 44% did non-manual work; 42% lived in the city; 16% were between the ages of 15 and 30, 52% between 31 and 39 and 32% were 60 or older.
To a certain degree, values are inherited. People born in a certain society tend to follow the values that are most widespread in that society, as well as in their family and social surroundings. This is the prevalent view taken in academic literature. ‘The majority of researchers accept that values are relatively stable after a person has developed and entered adulthood,’ Rudnev notes. According to renowned sociologist Ronald Inglehart, the main factors that determine a person’s values are the level of economic development in the country where a person lives and the dominant culture where an individual socialized when growing up.
Table 1. Covariate structure of migrants’ values (modified chart of Berry’s acculturation, 2006)
Modern-day societies can change quite rapidly, however, but in the case of migration, individuals change their socio-cultural environments in an extreme way, the researcher comments. ‘Inherited’ values and ‘acquired’ values may conflict, changing an individual’s values. ‘People must be able to change not only their behavior, but their attitudes and perhaps deeper aspects of their personality, such as their values,’ Rudnev writes.
The study showed that the connection between individual values dominant in migrants’ native countries is not stronger than the connection between their values and those of the country where they immigrated. ‘Furthermore, values in the country of residence are an even more powerful predictor of individual values of migrants than values common among population of the receiving country,’ Rudnev posits. This is also true for respondents who were fully socialized in their home countries before moving to another country.
The results of the study demonstrate that the most common method of acculturation, or embedding into a new culture, among intra-European migrants is assimilation, and to a lesser extent, integration. ‘Integration unlike assimilation involves not only accepting the values of the new country, but also maintaining the values of one’s native culture,’ the researcher notes.
The author pays special attention to the value of self-expression, the level of which generally depends on a country’s economic development. The more developed a nation’s economy is, the more evident the value of self-expression is among its population.
The results of the research show that self-expression, like basic values, depends more on the culture of the host country than on an immigrant’s native country. In addition, self-expression is more flexible and changeable than basic values, Rudnev concludes. It is specifically the value of self-expression that is most likely to transform when someone moves to another country. The higher the value of self-expression in a migrant’s home country, the more likely it is that it will be even higher in the country a migrant moves to if there are favorable conditions for this.