Citizenship and Children’s Songs

A while ago, I pondered about the possibility that conceptions of citizenship are reflected in the songs children learn. It might be a bit wacky, but aren’t children’s songs one way we transmit our world view to the next generation?

I abandoned this because it seemed too tedious to do this is a systematic manner, but I did code a few children’s songs in German and French. I drew on compilations of “most favourites”, and focused on songs common in the German and French areas of Switzerland. A first look indeed confirmed that Swiss-German songs are more likely to refer to farmers and their work, or to craft. These are themes that match a more “ethnic” understanding of citizenship.

Areas where there are no obvious differences between language areas include movement and dancing, food, body parts, being cheerful, animals, or landscapes. More common in the French speaking-part were themes of being mischievous. I’m not sure how this is linked to the traditionally more “civic” understanding of citizenship.


Inspired by a reference to using MIPEX data in Anna Zamora-Kapoor, Petar Kovincic, and Charles Causey‘s review on anti-foreigner sentiments, I decided to post a few comments. Basically I agree with the authors on the benefits of systematic comparative data, but this does not necessarily lead to a blanket recommendation of MIPEX data.

MIPEX data have many advantages, including a relatively wide coverage and the fact that it provides measures over time (even more so for some countries).

The history of the MIPEX means that it is probably not as soundly based on theory as we want it to be in academic research (i.e. if we want to use it as a scale: this is not its original purpose). For a number of indicators it is not entirely clear why they were chosen. That said, most of the indicators seem to hold up relatively well empirically. By relatively well I mean that MIPEX could be used as a scale, but it could be improved in several ways. In particular, fewer indicators would suffice.

On a different note, I have reservations about measurement invariance: do the different MIPEX indicators actually measure the same thing in different countries? As we are looking at aggregate data, empirical tests such as CFA do not apply.

There are other similar indicators, nicely summarized in Koopmans, R., I. Michalowski, and S. Waibel. 2012. “Citizenship rights for immigrants: National political processes and cross-national convergence in Western Europe, 1980–2008.” American Journal of Sociology 117 (4): 1202–1245. doi:10.1086/662707.

What is important is that no one measure of citizenship rights will be suitable for all research questions. The limitations of existing data sets should encourage us to produce better data sets for academic research whenever necessary. In many cases MIPEX comes with clear advantages: readily available, directly comparable to other research, wide coverage, and coverage over time. At the same time, there is no rule that all the indicators need to used, or that other indicators cannot be added to create a new measure without having to start from scratch.