It’s WEIRD to move off-campus

WEIRD:

Western
Educated
Industrial
Rich
Democratic

This is an unusual combination of human traits, and yet, they describe most college students. It turns out that college students in the U.S. are a statistical outlier in relation to the rest of the world.

WEIRD people value autonomy and independence above all else, and so it’s not unusual to see college freshmen demand a single room. It’s not unusual for a sophomore to move off-campus, where she can have more space to herself. Here in the U.S. we value our personal rights and freedom, and we get annoyed when we have to share them with others.

There are obvious upsides to this that us western, educated people understand, but the downsides are somewhat hidden. For instance, higher education research shows that students who feel disconnected from others are less likely to graduate. For instance, rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in the U.S. are at all-time highs. For instance, last year the U.K. actually appointed a “Minister of Loneliness,” to address epidemic levels of that feeling, which we know to be a major public health concern akin to smoking.

This would all be bizarre to a multi-generation family living in a remote Indian village. And even though gender inequality might be rampant–which the Westerner shames them for–their valuing community over autonomy helps them evade the Westerner’s loneliness and anxiety.

Indeed, every moral system has trade-offs.

[h/t to Jonathan Haidt]