Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Are Georgia's risk-loving men to blame for the spread of COVID-19?

Note: This article was published in partnership with OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog.  This article was written by Dr. Koba Turmanidze, Director of CRRC Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

Popular sayings often associate risk-taking with hefty payoffs. Perhaps the most widely used proverb about the subject in the region suggests that if you don’t take risks, you don’t get to drink champagne. 

While risky people may enjoy a glass of champagne someday, this article argues that a love of risk, especially among Georgian men, also threatens society’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.   

CRRC’s June 2020 COVID-19 Monitor survey shows that half the Georgian public are risk-tolerant (51%), 41% dislike taking risks, and 8% do not have an opinion. A regression analysis suggests that risk tolerance does not vary across several respondent characteristics such as age group, education level, type of settlement, or household economic conditions. However, risk tolerance is related to gender and employment status, controlling for the characteristics previously listed. Men are 18 percentage points more likely to be risk-tolerant than women. Moreover, employed and unemployed people are about 15 percentage points more likely to accept risk-taking than people who are not in the active labour force. 

When it comes to potentially risky behaviour in the pandemic, during the week prior to the survey, 52% reported they had spent time with people outside of their household, 33% said they socialized at someone’s house, and 19% appear to have used public transport. Respondents’ answers on these three questions are summarized in a variable measuring risky behaviour, which takes the value of one if the respondent reports any of the three actions and a zero if the respondent reports none. 

A regression analysis was conducted that relates risky behaviour to risk tolerance, controlling for respondents’ demographic characteristics. The analysis indicates a significant relation between risk tolerance and risky behaviour: risk-tolerant people are eight percentage points more likely to engage in at least one of the above noted risky actions. Gender and age are also relevant for risk-taking: men are nine percentage points more likely to engage in risky actions than women. Also, older people (55+) are 18 percentage points less likely to behave in a risky way compared to people belonging to the age group between 18 and 34.

Since gender is related to both risk tolerance and risky behaviour, further analysis looks at how risk tolerance predicts risky behaviour for women and men separately. 

The analysis suggests that risk tolerance and age predict men’s engagement in risky activities. Risk tolerant men are 15 percentage points more likely to engage in risky actions compared to risk-averse men. Likewise, younger men (18 to 34) are 11 percentage points more inclined to risky behaviour than men belonging to the 35 to 54 age group and 26 percentage points more likely than the group 55 and older. 

For women, risky behaviour is associated with employment status and settlement type. Importantly, risk tolerance is not associated with engaging in risky behaviour among women. Employed women are more likely to take risky actions than the unemployed (by 16 percentage points), and women outside of the active labour force (by 20 percentage points). Also, women in Tbilisi are 13 percentage points more likely to take risks than residents of other urban areas.

While popular culture valorizes risk tolerance, in the current pandemic, risk-loving men have higher levels of social contact and higher mobility, helping the virus spread.            

The data used in this blog article is available here.   

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Almost everyone in Georgia believes in the supernatural

[Note: This article was co-published by CRRC Georgia and OC Media on the Caucasus Data Blog. It was written by Anano Kipiani, a policy analyst at CRRC Georgia, and Kristina Vacharadze, the Programs Director at CRRC Georgia. The views presented in this article do not reflect the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgian folklore is filled with stories of demons and devils; yet, everyone knows children’s stories are just that. However, new opinion polling from the ISSP Survey on Religion suggests that the vast majority of Georgians believe in the supernatural.

The study, which was conducted in 2019 by CRRC Georgia, asked about whether people think the following statements are true or false:

  • Good luck charms sometimes do bring good luck;
  • Some fortunetellers really can foresee the future;
  • Some faith healers do have God-given healing powers;
  • A person’s star sign at birth or horoscope can affect the course of the future.

Overall, 91% of the public reported that at least one of the above statements was true. Belief in faith healers was most common, with 57% reporting this was true. Belief in horoscopes (37%), good luck charms (30%), and fortune-tellers (20%) were less common.

Almost half (48%) the public also said they believed that ancestors had supernatural powers. A third (35%) said they did not believe this, and the remainder (16%) were uncertain. 

Further analyses of the data shows few differences in the number of superstitious beliefs people hold in different social and demographic groups. 

People with and without a higher education reported belief in a similar number of the above superstitions. Similarly, there was no difference between people in rural and urban areas. Older and younger people also held similar views. 

The only statistically significant difference present in the data was with regard to people who are more religious, who believed in more superstitions on average while controlling for other factors. 

Even though almost everyone in Georgia believes in at least some superstition, most people also think people should put more faith in science. The study asked whether people agreed with the statement: ‘We trust too much in science and not enough in religious faith’. Only a quarter of the public (25%) agreed, 29% neither agreed nor disagreed, and almost half the population (46%) disagreed. 

That is, while most people in Georgia believe in the supernatural, a plurality also put some faith in science.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordinary least squares regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the number of supernatural beliefs a person reported believing. The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, religious affiliation, settlement type, level of education, and a religiosity index. The data used in the blog is available here