Why do cultural values differ in low-income countries and high-income countries?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Modernization theory, developed in the 1950s and 1960s, is a field of sociology that examined the economic evolution of societies (see the source below). According to this theory, in low-income countries, people are focused on daily needs and survival. Their values focus on survival and safety, as these are the most important and most attainable goals. In higher-income countries, most people have met their goals of economic and physical safety (though there are still people who struggle with these goals). Therefore, people at higher economic levels within these countries are able to focus on different goals, such as those that foster individuality and capitalism. In the United States, for example, many, but not all, people have the ability to pursue studies that build on their interests and values and that allow them to express their values. They focus on expressing themselves through their work, choice of living situation, and family. Their values are focused on personal choice and fulfillment.

Further reading:

Eisenstadt, S. N. 1966 Modernization: Protest and Change. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Any answer to this must necessarily involve generalizations about such countries that may not be true for all countries.  With that said, the most likely reason for differences in cultural values is the fact that high-income countries are more industrialized and modernized in their economies.  This leads to different ways of life and different values.

Low-income countries tend to have more traditional economies.  People do things in ways that are similar to the way in which things have always been done.  People have likely not been exposed to very many influences such as education and travel that would have changed their values.

By contrast, high-income countries have undergone a great deal of change.  People have moved from the country to the city, thus breaking up traditional patterns of family and community relationships.  They have been exposed to people from many different areas through moving, through travel, and through things like education and entertainment.  These changes make their culture much more cosmopolitan and "modern."

For these reasons, low-income countries tend to have more traditional cultural values than high-income countries do.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial