Is “Regional Culture” a Meaningful Concept? Cultural Differences Across 60 Russian Regions
There is an increasing interest in the international management literature in cultural differences between in-country regions. Yet, the regions of any country may be merely political products and not necessarily cultural units. The goal of this article is to propose clear empirical criteria for deciding if a set of entities, such as a country's administrative regions, can be legitimate units of cross-cultural analysis and to test these criteria in an empirical study.
The authors review the literature on what constitutes a unit of cross-cultural analysis and propose empirical criteria. For instance, the regions of a given country are meaningful units of cross-cultural analysis if one can replicate (an) established dimension(s) of culture at the regional level, including some of the dimension(s)' antecedents and predictive properties. The authors apply this test in the context of the Russian Federation (RF), using an RF database (18,768 respondents from 60 administrative regions) with items borrowed from the World Values Survey.
The RF regions pass the authors’ test. At the regional level, the selected items yield an individualism-collectivism (IDV-COLL) dimension that is similar to its nation-level counterpart in the revised Minkov-Hofstede model in terms of concept and antecedents (wealth differences and geographic latitude) and outcomes that are relevant in business (innovation rates and quality of governance). The authors also find other patterns that confirm the properties of RF regions as meaningful units of cultural analysis.
The authors’ criteria and the test based on them are suitable for large countries, with significant geo-climatic variety and ethnic diversity, but may be inapplicable in small countries with less diversity. It is questionable if the latter countries contain enough cultural variation to justify a cross-cultural analysis of their sub-national regions.
The authors’ criteria can be used in future research in any large country to decide if its regions justify a cross-cultural analysis in the field of management and business or any other field.
Cultural differences within a country are important as they may inform political and management decisions. Yet, to demonstrate that those differences are real, and not imaginary, one needs a methodology like the authors’.
The study contributes to the discussion of the meaningfulness of in-country regions as cultural units for cross-cultural analysis in international business by focusing on the RF.