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Freedom doesn’t depend on how much money you have

Russian students may be materially and physically dependent on their parents, but unlike their american peers, it doesn’t stop them feeling they are socially independent beings. HSE student Ekaterina Novikova presented her research, «Social independence as a consequence of economic independence; a comparison between Russian and American students»

In her survey of Russian and American students, Ekaterina Novikova found that social independence doesn’t necessarily come with being financially independent, at least, not in Russia. She presented her findings at the New Economic Association’s Interdisciplinary Economic and Social Research annual conference.

The aim of the research was to establish the significant differences in the extent to which Russian and American students are socially and financially dependent on their parents. The survey involved 253 students at Moscow State Pedagogical University and at George Mason University USA. The survey was conducted online on the Russian social network Vkontakte and on Facebook. To make a valid comparison the research included students in the same age group – 1st-2nd year students in the US and 4th-5th year students in Russia.

It turned out that other things being equal, Russian students feel they are more independent than their American peers. But this feeling is not based on material and physical independence from their parents.

Novikova noticed that, ‘while 56% of Russian respondents said that they were completely socially independent, in the US the number of students who felt socially independent was 22% – exactly the same as the number who were economically independent.’ The survey showed that among the Russian students 32% are fully financially independent, 56% are partially dependent on their parents, and 12% are entirely dependent on them, while 22% of American students are fully self-sufficient financially, 48% depend partially on their parents and 29% depend on mum and dad completely.

However, the Russians call themselves independent even when they are still living in the family home. Novikova explains that, “the fact of living with your parents influences your social dependence if you are American but not if you are Russian. In the US, living with your folks means that you are someone who isn’t ‘standing on your own two feet’ yet, but in Russia people live with their parents for longer, even when they have a good income and children of their own. Living together with your parents is seen as normal and doesn’t mean that you are lacking independence in any way.

But in conclusion Novikova makes a point of underlining that Russian students are typically very unsure of themselves and seek approval from their elders. ‘A fear of making the wrong decision and of making a mistake is the only thing that makes young Russians talk about dependence, but this is something you don’t encounter at all among young Americans’.

 

February 05, 2014