Cultural Dimensions: A Factor Analysis of the World Ethnographic Sample1


  • 1

    The authors are grateful to Fred Eggan, George P. Murdock, David M. Schneider, Marc J. Swartz, and Arthur Tuden for helpful comments on the conceptualization of this research; to Lawrence A. Messé for skillful processing of the analyses; to David L. Wallace for consultation on statistical analysis; and to Herbert Barry, Allan D. Coult, Harold E. Driver, Raoul Naroll, and Karl F. Schuessler for reactions to the manuscript. This research was partially supported by an award from the Social Science Research Committee of the University of Chicago.


This research (a) scales quantitatively the 30 cultural characteristics of Murdock's (1957) World Ethnographic Sample, (b) correlates them over all 565 societies, (c) factors these correlations, to show that nine dimensions largely summarize the original 30 characteristics, and (d) repeats the correlation and factoring separately in all six cultural regions, to show that these characteristics are related at least partly because of functional necessity rather than solely because of historical diffusion from a common source. This general finding, like the many specific relations here reported, is supported by the large size of the sample, by its worldwide representativeness, and by use of the same variables throughout—but above all by the comparisons between regions.