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The Spirit of Capitalism
In America, Hard Work Still Equals Success

The United States is still the wellspring of pioneering ambition, according to an October 9 report from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The survey focused on inequality, taxation, the free market, and social mobility. From the Pew Center:

A good education and hard work are most often seen as the keys [around the world] to getting ahead in life. This view is especially prevalent in emerging and developing nations, where most see economic opportunity expanding. Still, many also believe success can be determined by things outside a person’s control, such as luck or having a wealthy family.

American respondents diverge from their international compatriots when they deal with the individualistic values at the heart of American success.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans disagree with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a considerably higher percentage than the global median of 38%. Similarly, Americans place an especially strong emphasis on the value of hard work – 73% think it is very important to work hard in order to get ahead in life, compared with a global median of 50%.

The percentage of respondents who feel that anything is important to getting ahead varies widely between countries and cultures. In Brazil, whose motto is “Order and Progress”, 76 percent of respondents reported that a good education is “very important” to getting ahead. The French, famous for their ennui, didn’t respond above 25 percent for any “getting ahead” category, and almost nine in ten French respondents believed that their children would be financially worse off than themselves.

Meanwhile, a full tenth of Italian respondents felt that “giving bribes” is very important to getting ahead, matched only by respondents in places like Russia, the Palestinian territories, and Nigeria. At least we can assure our Italian friends that government economists now include estimates of profits from corruption and prostitution in their measurements of the country’s gross domestic product.

Read the full report here.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    American Culture is Mankind’s bleeding edge culture.

  • John Tyler

    “…..In America, Hard Work Still Equals Success…..”
    Democrats , liberal progressives, feminists, socialists, black “leaders,” Obama, etc. certainly do not believe this at all.

  • Anthony

    “Emerging and developing economies are much more optimistic than rich countries about future.” (Pew Research Global Attitude Project)

    Economic growth (a rising standard of living) more often than not fosters greater opportunity (as well as tolerance of diversity, social mobility, more fairness, etc.). Economic stagnation on the other hand may foster scapegoating, categorization, labeling, etc. And it is here I think Pew Survey assumes growth by most respondents (optimism) and stagnation (pessimism – beset with perceived declining living standards) by some especially in many Western countries since 2008. In fact, Pew survey taps into that idea generally if one views data and narrative objectively. That is, how citizens of any country think about economic growth and what actions they take in consequence are embedded in the social, political, and economic environment of which they perceive (overall optimism is linked with recent national economic performance and vice versa). Next to that, regarding education and hard work both have become an important line of thinking vis-a-vis economic growth; accordingly, both advanced economies and developing economies focus on both attributes as enhancing productive resources (enhanced education of labor force means that resources are increasing [in principle]). So in America, hard work equals success has been a tendency positively and morally advanced from founding. Question is does it apply quantitatively.

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