Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

Culture Typing versus Sample Specific Accuracy: An Examination of Uncertainty Avoidance, Power Distance, and Individualism for Business Professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

Culture Typing versus Sample Specific Accuracy: An Examination of Uncertainty Avoidance, Power Distance, and Individualism for Business Professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Comparative cultural closeness between Canada and the U.S. established in part by the Hofstede (1980) study continues to influence some business research efforts that assume cultural parity between the two nations. Sampling business professionals, evidence emerges that cautions assuming cultural parity between Canada and the U.S. based on typical and selected Anglo culture type dimensions. Contributing as an updated empirical test of the Anglo culture type assumption between the two nations, uncertainty avoidance was higher in the U.S. sample and varied more by country than by individual characteristics or by an indication of professional discipline type.

INTRODUCTION

In Hofstede's seminal (1980) work the author predicted that comparative and directional changes in national cultures could be expected most specifically on three dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and individualism/collectivism. Hofstede even indicated that some of these changes could be expected within a "twenty-five to forty year" window (Hofstede 1980, 343). However, now more than twenty-five years after the original findings, some research continues to accept these aging national positions of culture without question, assuming the highest degree of cultural parity between nations, like the U.S. and Canada, that ranked similar in that study. Is research that continues to ignore Hofstede's "use by date" warning making too big an assumption?

Despite cross-disciplinary evidence to the contrary (Bowman 2000, Lipset 1989, Nevitte 1996, Simpson 2000), some business research suggests that Canada and the U.S. hold general cultural parity, particularly for cultural dimensions related to Anglo culture typing or clustering (Griffith et al. 2000). In some instances the U.S. has been used as a cultural proxy for Canada. Evidence for generally questioning cultural equivalence between these two nations cuts across multiple aspects of national identity, including historical aspects (Thompson and Randall 1994), racial and ethnic policy (Reitz and Breton 1994), criminal justice (Mauser 1990), and health care systems (McKendry et al. 1996).

Within cross-cultural business research, assumptions of cultural parity are usually based on data from the Hofstede (1980) study, which ranked both Canada and the U.S. close on almost all dimensions of culture. Canada and the U.S. are then grouped into categories of cultural sameness, referred to as "cultural types" or "dusters," specifically based in part on uncertainty avoidance (low), power distance (low), and individualism (high)1 (e.g., Griffith et al. 2000). A cultural type refers to human groups that display cultural homogeneity on certain cultural dimensions (Hofstede 1980, Clark 1990). The assumption is that standardization of management practices can be developed with relative ease among culture groups within the same type (Griffith et al. 2000). However, standardization becomes an issue if there is actually cultural deviation within management samples that are often assumed similar based on the culture type or clusters and the related cultural dimensions. Also, culture typing in management research becomes an issue when it is assumed that membership in a common culture type establishes actual cultural homogeneity. This is sometimes taken to an extreme, luring researchers into the questionable position that culture type member nations are actually the same culture. This forms the false position that these nations are "intra-culturally" related. In part, our research sets out to study the accuracy of such positions between the U.S. and Canada by examining three specific cultural dimensions which are both related to culture typing of the subject nations (see the section titled Culture Types) and are also related to the dimensions that Hofstede (1980) speculated would experience relative, directional fluctuation within a specified period of time.

The parity assumption for Canada and the U. …

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