National Pride: War Minus the Shooting
This study focuses on the determinants of self-reported measures of national pride. Using pooled cross-sectional data for European countries obtained from the Eurobarometer, it is estimated that pride is not correlated with GDP per capita nor with household income levels. Using the 2000 UEFA European Championship as a natural experiment, it is estimated that individuals from both host and winning nations report, on average, higher levels of national pride in the period immediately following the event, supporting theoretical arguments of a “feel-good” factor associated with sports events. Accounting for performance relative to expectations produces results along the same lines.
KeywordsNational prideLife satisfactionWell-beingSports eventsSoccer
Over the last decade, happiness research has become a field of increasing interest within the economics profession. Nevertheless, happiness and life satisfaction (LS) are only dimensions of overall individual well-being; other such dimensions being for example one’s satisfaction with perceived state of health and job satisfaction. This study focuses on measures of pride, a psychological dimension currently overlooked by economists.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, pride is defined as “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from achievements, qualities, or possessions”, thus arguably linked to the individuals’ well-being. The literature on psychology, however, distinguishes between two independent facets of pride; authentic (pro-social aspect, associated with feelings of accomplishment, confidence, success, etc.) and hubristic (anti-social aspect, linked to disagreeableness, neuroticism, narcissism, etc.) (Cheng et al. 2010). An extensive discussion regarding both these facets and their evolution can be found in Tracy and Robins (2007); Tracy et al. (2009) and Cheng et al. (2010).
In this study, the objective is to empirically investigate the determinants of a specific measure of pride, national pride, using data from the Eurobarometer Surveys. National pride can be thought of as the qualities and feelings of achievement, or otherwise, of the nation; “it is the positive affective bond to specific national achievements and symbols” (Müller-Peters 1998). For example, historical and cultural knowledge and national successes (e.g. victories in wars) have been previously found to be strongly related to feelings of national pride (Rose 1985; Smith and Kim 2006; Moaddel et al. 2008).
Following the above definition, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, following the happiness and life satisfaction literature (see for example Easterlin (1974); Oswald (1997); Di Tella et al. (2003) and Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) among others) a question that immediately arises is whether wealthier nations tend to report higher levels of national pride, thus mirroring to some extent a sense of national superiority based on intergroup comparisons (i.e. comparisons between nations), as mentioned in Hopkins (2001). After all, more prosperous nations are arguably also quite powerful in terms of their political and diplomatic influence (e.g. forming policies in the international sphere) and this may be evident in survey reports of national pride.
Second, a natural experiment based on the 2000 UEFA soccer tournament is conducted in order to identify whether everyday experiences, such as those arising from international sports events, have an impact on self-reported national pride. Looking at the effects a sports event has on national pride is entirely justified based on historical facts. Both the former Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, for example, invested large resources in developing performance-enhancing drugs used to guarantee the success of their athletes in major sports events in order to boost nationalism and showcase the success of their centrally-controlled regime (Riordan 1987).
Furthermore, increased occurrences of mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke during major sports events points to a substantial impact the latter can have on the psychological functioning of the individual (Witte et al. 2000). In international sports events, such cases might be plausibly related to the impact of the outcome of the game on national pride. To an extreme, the outcome of a sports event might lead to suicidal behaviours (Steels 1994; Trovato 1998; Joiner et al. 2006).
The remaining of this study is structured as follows. Section 2 provides a brief review of the literature on the economics of happiness and sporting events. Section 3 describes the data and outlines the methodology used. The results are presented in Sect. 4. Section 5 concludes.
2 Literature Review
2.1 Subjective Well-Being
The literature on the determinants of happiness and LS is fairly established.1 To avoid repetition this section offers a brief outline of the main findings in this area in order to make them comparable to the ones presented in this study.2
On the socio-economic characteristics, males tend on average to report lower levels of happiness than females. Irrespective of gender, happiness has been found to significantly decrease with age. Numerous studies have verified however that the most profound negative impact on happiness is caused by unemployment (see for example Winkelmann and Winkelmann (1998)). On the positive side, education is positively related to happiness, as is marriage. Finally, income is positively related to self-reported measures of happiness, although it has been argued that one’s income relative to his peers is more important to happiness as adaptation to income levels comes into play (Luttmer 2005).
The evidence on national wealth is not as straight-forward. The Easterlin paradox seems to have dominated the findings in the literature for over 30 years, arguing that the welfare effects assumed to be followed by increases in GDP are not evident in happiness reports. A relatively recent re-investigation of this relationship appears to claim the opposite; that is, that happiness and GDP are positively related in most countries with the exception of the United States (Stevenson and Wolfers 2008). Clearly, there is still scope for research in this debatable theme.
The data on self-reported measures of national pride used here falls under similar assumptions of validity as well and it is interesting to see how determinants of national pride differ from those of life satisfaction in European nations.
2.2 The Economics of Sports Events
Over recent decades national governments have become eager to host a major sporting event, such as the Olympic Games. This has intensified a long-lasting debate about the potential economic impact of staging sports events between advocates and academic economists.
On the one hand, it has long been claimed by promoters that public investments in major events produce net economic benefits in the manner of Keynesian injections and multiplier effects, create employment opportunities, promote tourism and economic growth. On the other, empirical evidence by academics suggests that: (a) neither employment levels nor wages are likely to increase significantly (Baade and Matheson 2002); (b) the construction of sports arenas does not promote economic growth (Manzenreiter and Horne 2005); (c) tourism impacts either during or after the event are insignificant once the impact region and the type of tourists (e.g. time-switchers and casuals) are rightly specified (Crompton 1995). Furthermore, it has been argued that sports-related multiplier effects are likely to be small or even negative (Siegfried and Zimbalist 2000).
In any case, sporting events may be related to a number of intangible benefits, potentially related to feelings of pride derived from the implication that the victorious nation is a ‘superior’ nation (Borusiak 2009). Psychological impacts of hosting major events are however less frequently debated and recent research has provided substantial empirical evidence suggesting that hosting such events, especially soccer related ones, has happiness related implications as measured by self-reported life satisfaction (Kavetsos and Szymanski 2010). It is also widely acclaimed that performance at these events is also related to positive feelings. For example, 2004 was a memorable sporting year for Greece; having never even scored a goal in an international championship the country’s national football team managed to win the 2004 Euro trophy followed by a successful organisation of the summer Olympic Games in Athens. There is also anecdotal evidence on the effect these events had on social cohesion, identity, and national pride. Nonetheless, Kavetsos and Szymanski (2010) did not find significant evidence supporting a link between life satisfaction and sporting performance- measured by national performance league tables- in their pooled analysis.
The scope of the present study is twofold. First, motivated by the Easterlin paradox, a pooled analysis of European nations is performed to establish whether individuals in wealthier nations tend to report higher levels of national pride. Second, hosting and performance at the 2000 UEFA soccer championship is considered as a potential determinant of self-reported national pride.
3 Data and Methodology
The data used in this study is gathered by the Eurobarometer survey series, the European Commission’s official public opinion poll. These surveys are usually conducted twice each year, in the spring and in the autumn, where approximately 1,000 individuals in each member nation are surveyed. Although the Authentic and Hubristic Pride Proneness Scale, a well-structured instrument to measure these two facets of pride, is being widely used in the psychology literature (Tracy and Robins 2007; Cheng et al. 2010), Eurobarometer surveys measure individuals’ national pride through the response to a single, simple, question: “Would you say you are very proud, fairly proud, not very proud, not at all proud to be [nationality of respondent]?”.3
Unlike life satisfaction, national pride is a question less frequently asked in the Eurobarometer and is included in a single wave within each year, at best. In fact, only a few surveys pose this question. These are: EB17 (1982), EB19 (1983), EB21 (1984), EB24 (1985), EB26 (1986), EB30 (1988), EB47.1 (1997), EB52 (1999), EB53 (2000), EB54.1 (2000), EB56.2 (2001) EB57.1 (2002) and EB60.1 (2003). During this period, individuals from fifteen European countries are surveyed, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; Portugal and Spain are included as of 1985, whereas Austria, Finland and Sweden as of 1997.
Prior literature on pride has argued that cultural differences in self-construal (predominantly interdependent in Eastern cultures and predominantly independent in Western ones) have an effect on reported levels of pride (see Neumann et al. (2009) for a relevant overview on this subject). Given the European nature of the sample, however, cultural differences along these lines do not appear to be an issue, where note that country specific elements in reported levels of pride will be explicitly accounted for in the empirical models by including country fixed effects.
In addition, this study attempts to investigate whether events of a national scale, such as those attributed to major sporting events, are capable of having a significant effect on pride. Here, the case of hosting of and performance at the 2000 UEFA Euro is taken as a case study. The choice of the 2000 tournament is not accidental as it is the only year the question on national pride was included in both waves; the first between April–May and the second between October–November. This permits the use of a ‘natural experiment’ type study as the sports event took place in the period in between these two surveys (10/06/2000–02/07/2000). During that year individuals from 16 nations were surveyed, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, N. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
For the case of the natural experiment, a difference-in-differences (DD) approach is applied in order to empirically test the existence of a pride factor related to hosting and performance at the event. DD estimators are widely used in the program evaluation literature. In brief, this setting requires at least two groups, the treatment and the control group. A time variable is then interacted with the binary variable indicating the treatment group, thus capturing the effect of the ‘intervention’ (Wooldridge 2002: 129). Similar approaches have been widely applied in natural experiment settings using happiness data (e.g. Kimball et al. (2006) and Oswald and Powdthavee (2008)).
Euro 2000 actual and expected outcome
Panel A: Actual outcome
Panel B: Expected outcome
Accounting for expectations is not a trivial task and a rather simplistic scenario is followed here. Collecting the latest official FIFA national soccer rankings immediately before the tournament (07/06/2000) the expected outcome of each stage of the competition is formulated assuming that stronger teams win. This hypothetical outcome is presented in Table 1, panel B. Clearly, this is a simplistic scenario that does not account for other factors that affect the outcome of a soccer match, such as host effects, injured players and mistaken referee decisions.
Next, an achievement variable is formulated for the expected outcome by awarding a point for every level of the competition expected to be reached. This exercise is repeated for the actual outcome and the difference of the two is taken and included as an explanatory variable in the post-event surveys for participating nations only, as non-participating nations will bias these estimates.
Finally, as 2000 was an Olympic year, a Medals variable is also included in the regressions. This measure of Olympic performance also needs to account for performance expectations. The assumption here is an adjusted expectations model also used in Kavetsos and Szymanski (2010). In this case, the values of the Medals variable are those achieved by the nation in the previous Olympics for individuals surveyed in the pre-event period (1996), and the actual 2000 medals for those surveyed in the post-event period. A time interaction variable is also included. Similarly, an achievement variable is defined for the Olympics as the difference in 2000 medals less those of 1996, included as a regressor in the post-event surveys only for all nations in the sample.
4 Results and Discussion
4.1 National Pride and GDP
Determinants of pride and LS
(1) National pride
(2) Life satisfaction
Income level (2)
Income level (3)
Income level (4)
In accordance to the happiness and life satisfaction literature (e.g. Dolan et al. (2008)) males, divorced, separated and widowed individuals, and the unemployed are less satisfied on average. Individual unemployment poses in fact the largest adverse effect on life satisfaction. Satisfaction with life decreases with age, although this relationship exhibits diminishing returns. The contrary is true for individuals who are married or cohabiting and the self-employed. The results also suggest that individuals in higher levels of income report higher levels of life satisfaction on average. Finally, log GDP per head does not enter significantly in the life satisfaction equation, reaffirming the existence of the “Easterlin paradox” for this data span.
Although the age-national pride relationship is similar to the life satisfaction one, the regression based on national pride, presented in the first column, are somewhat different. First, there does not seem to be any statistically significant difference between reports of national pride between genders. Second, there appear to be some differences in reports of national pride depending on the marital status of individuals. Married, defacto married and widowed individuals report significantly positive levels of pride, whereas the estimated coefficients associated with divorce and separation are statistically insignificant.
Third, the results suggest that the degree of national pride decreases with the level of education; more educated individuals might be aware of the cultural and historical significance of other nations and might in general hold a more critical opinion regarding cross-country political actions, thus justifying this result to some extent. Fourth, the unemployed report lower levels of national pride on average, probably reflecting the hardships of unemployment, as do the self-employed, though for different reasons most likely related to their educational status (lawyers, business proprietors, and other professionals). Finally, individuals taking care of the home are significantly prouder with their national identity; a plausible explanation for this being their lack of higher education, on average, and the potentially increased effect of the media in shaping their national identity.
Two additional findings are especially worth commenting on. Similar to the life satisfaction results, national wealth does not enter significantly in the pride equation. That is, national pride is not significantly boosted by increases in GDP per head. This is a finding similar to the one Richard Easterlin discovered using happiness data (Easterlin 1974). Furthermore, prior empirical evidence on happiness and life satisfaction suggests that wealthier individuals are happier; this study also confirms this finding. A similar relationship does not seem to hold though for the case of national pride. The empirical evidence presented here suggests that individuals in higher household income levels do not appear to report significantly higher levels of national pride. This might not be as surprising since the measure of pride used here is national, not individual, pride and thus, contrary to the case of GDP, it is difficult to think of ways personal or household income status can relate to an individual’s degree of national pride.
The pooled cross-sectional evidence over time provides some important insights on the determinants of national pride, where it is observed that the partial correlations of two important economic measures -GDP and household income- are not statistically significant. The forthcoming set of results focus on the impact of a non-monetary measure, hosting and performance of an international soccer event.
4.2 National Pride and the 2000 Euro Tournament
Estimates of actual performance
First round* after
Runner up* after
Notable differences appear when focusing the analysis on self-reported national pride. First, regarding progression in the tournament, the only statistically significant coefficient is the one associated with winning the tournament. Second, host nations are significantly prouder, although the magnitude and level of significance for the Netherlands is quite reduced. This can potentially be attributed to the relative performance each nation reached during this competition with the Netherlands being tipped as one of the favourites to win the competition due to the host effect. Both these results suggest that pride measures are more representative of overall performance. Regarding Olympic performance, the negative and significant sign of the Medals variable is not necessarily alarming as this includes medals of 1996 for the individuals surveyed in the pre-2000 Games. More importantly, the DD estimate of Olympic medals is positive, although not strongly significant.
Estimates of expectations-adjusted achievement
Panel A: Soccer
Panel B: Olympics
This paper focuses on a different dimension of individual well-being, national pride. More specifically, using self-reported national pride from a pooled cross-section of European countries, it is estimated that national pride is not correlated with GDP per capita. This result is in accordance with the majority of the findings of the literature on the economics of happiness (Easterlin’s Paradox). Second, although individual/household income is found to be a major determinant of happiness and life satisfaction, this is not true for the case of national pride.
Having established no correlation between self-reported national pride and economic measures, this study attempts to measure the effect of achievement at, and hosting of, a major European sporting event; the 2000 UEFA European (Euro) Championship. As 2000 was also an Olympic year, measures for Olympic performance are also included in this natural experiment. Compared to the pride of nations that did not participate in the tournament, the findings suggest that the pride of both host nations experiences a positive and significant increase in the period immediately following the event. A similar result is estimated for the case of the winner of the trophy. For comparison purposes, the results based on life satisfaction are also presented. The host effect is still evident in this case, although there is no significant evidence of a ‘winner effect’.
Furthermore, a regression based on a simple expectations adjusted measure of performance indicates that outperformance is positively related to pride. The same is however not supported when using data on life satisfaction. This might be either attributed to the over-simplistic expectations model used here or to the fundamental differences between reports of life satisfaction and national pride.
Finally, the estimated results presented in this study should not be taken as causal evidence. That is, pride might be leading to better performance, rather than the opposite. This argument is however less plausible for the case of the host nations, as these are chosen on certain economic and political criteria; otherwise, prouder nations would consistently act as hosts of major sports events, which is clearly not the case. Future research might also wish to explicitly focus on the differences in reported levels of national pride among different socio-economic groups to shed more light on some of the findings of this study.
Note that although life satisfaction and happiness are separable constructs, previous research in the economics literature treats them as variants of the same notion and uses them interchangeably (Frey and Stutzer 2002; Di Tella et al. 2003; Blanchflower and Oswald 2004; Easterlin 2005, 2006; Di Tella and MacCulloch 2006).
“Don’t know” answers are not studied here.
In fact, the Eurobarometer surveys ceased asking questions regarding the income status of individuals and their household as of 2004.
The life satisfaction question is: “On the whole, are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the life you lead?”. Note that over the pooled sample the correlation coefficient between national pride and life satisfaction is 0.14, implying that the two scales measure different, though positively related, aspects. Arguably, life satisfaction provides a more general picture of subjective well-being, whereas national pride measures a specific emotion within the former (Oishi et al. 2003).
Where note that in the post-event surveys the correlation between pride and life satisfaction for participating nations is equal to 0.215.
I would like to thank Nick Powdthavee, Stefan Szymanski, the editor and an anonymous referee for valuable comments and suggestions in previous versions of this study.