The Index of Emancipative Values: Measurement Model Misspecifications
by Boris Sokolov, National Research University Higher School of Economics
I report evidence of misspecification of the measurement model for the index of emancipative values (EVI), a value construct developed by Christian Welzel as a refined version of Inglehart’s concepts of postmaterialist values and self-expression values and used as a key explanatory variable in many important contributions to political science (for instance, Welzel’s award-winning book “Freedom Rising”). I find that the scale on which the index is measured is incomparable across cultural regions and countries. This means that the EVI is an unreliable measure of cultural differences in prevalent value patterns and therefore should not be used for cross-national comparisons and substantive quantitative research. In addition I demonstrate that the current index composition mixes different value dimensions and their actual associations with various political outcomes, in particular democratic development. However, using a novel approximate Bayesian approach to comparability testing I show that one specific sub-dimension of the EVI, known as pro-choice values, can be validly compared cross-nationally. I also contribute to the recent discussion on whether emancipative values are a reflective or a formative construct by providing thought experiments and empirical evidence supporting the former interpretation. Finally, I discuss some general issues of using comparative survey data for political research.