National pride and happiness: being an American (noun) vs an American (verb)

U.S. Constitution (photo:

A recently published study in the journal Psychological Science indicates that nationalistic pride is connected with higher levels of happiness, but that the type of pride matters (via The Atlantic, with a nod to twitter user @amritpan):

Tim Reeskens, a sociologist from Catholic University in Belgium, and Matthew Wright, a political scientist at American University, categorized national pride into “ethnic nationalism,” which is tied to ancestry and religious beliefs, and “civic nationalism,” which prioritizes respect for a country’s institutions and laws.

The researchers found that those who expressed civic nationalism were correlated with higher levels of happiness, rather than those who expressed ethnic nationalism.

According to the study, the variance in happiness between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism has some interesting implications:

The analysis challenges popular feel-good theories about nationalism. “There’s been a renaissance of arguments from political theorists and philosophers that a strong sense of national identity has payoffs in terms of social cohesion, which bolsters support for welfare and other redistributive policies,” says Wright. “We’ve finally gotten around to testing these theories.” The conclusion: “You have to look at how people define their pride.”

Perhaps this is why new citizens, who often come to the United States because of its institutions, laws and opportunities, seem happy with the country in a very different way than those whose origins here are generational.

So, it may be more reasonable to create cohesion based on civics and laws rather than ancestry and ethnicity.  People are just more happy that way.


  1. P SIngh

    I just realized India has zero civic nationalism. Sure america is heading toward a police state, but we gave the world human rights, damn it!


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