Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The New Urban Politeness Index: New York City Wins!?

In making cross-country comparisons, the Economist has given us the Big Mac Index and now Reader's Digest has given us the "rudeness" index. The people in New York have better manners than the people in Moscow.

Similar to recent field experiments in economics, Reader's Digest conducted the same experimental design in each city (see below) to test whether different responses were observed in different cities. Intuitively, if somebody needs help --- does the average person nearby help the person? If the answer is no, then the city is marked as "rude".

There is so much cross-country research that compares "apples to oranges" (such as national income accounts or corruption indices) that I actually much prefer this cross-country comparison.

New Yorkers are polite? Yes, says mag

By PAT MILTON, Associated Press WriterWed Jun 21, 8:27 AM ET

New Yorkers are a polite bunch.

No, really, they are. So says Reader's Digest.

The magazine sent reporters "undercover" to 36 cities, in 35 countries, to measure courtesy. New York was the only American city on the list.

In a city with a reputation for being in-your-face, New Yorkers seem to be expressing themselves with a new one-finger salute: a raised pinkie. In fact, they seem to have even better manners than people in London, Toronto and Moscow.

In its admittedly unscientific survey, the magazine's politeness-police gave three types of tests to more than 2,000 unwitting participants.

The reporters walked into buildings to see if the people in front of them would hold the door open; bought small items in stores and recorded whether the salespeople said "thank you"; and dropped a folder full of papers in busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.

New Yorkers turned out to be the most polite: 90 percent held the door open, 19 out of 20 store clerks said "thank you," and 63 percent of men and 47 percent of women helped with the flying papers.

In short, four out of five New Yorkers passed the courtesy test.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's not surprised.

He told reporters Tuesday that whenever he travels abroad, he hears nothing but praise for the Big Apple's good manners.

"We are so jaded," he said. "We want to think the worst of ourselves, and people from around this country and around the world think exactly the reverse."

The rudest continent is Asia, Readers Digest said. Eight out of nine cities tested there — including last place Mumbai, India — finished in the bottom 11. In Europe, Moscow and Bucharest ranked as the least polite.

Reader's Digest, which has readers in 21 languages, is publishing the results in its July issue.


Associated Press Writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.