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Young, Affluent Soviets Found to Be Dissatisfied

February 18, 1987|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | Times Science Writer

CHICAGO — The young, the educated and the affluent in the Soviet Union are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives than their counterparts in the West, American researchers reported Tuesday. They said there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of exposure to Western influences and the degree of dissatisfaction.

The last such survey, done after World War II, had found that older Soviet citizens were the least satisfied with their lot.

The new study, based on detailed interviews with Soviet emigres in the United States, was reported at a meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science here.

It is the first such study since the Harvard Refugee Project, which studied Soviets in displaced-persons camps after the second World War.

The team, led by economist James R. Millar of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, interviewed 2,793 Soviet emigres between January, 1979, and April, 1982. The subjects were selected from more than 34,000 Soviet immigrants who arrived in the United States during that period.

Nearly 85% of those interviewed were Jewish, and religious discrimination was one of their main reasons for departing. Yet their answers were the same as those of non-Jews on virtually all questions in the survey, Millar said.

"We are confident that their answers give us a good cross section of the opinions of individuals of European heritage who live in large and medium-sized cities in the Soviet Union," he said.

The Harvard Refugee Project had found that the older generation was least satisfied and that the youngest and best educated were the most satisfied.

But, today, Millar said, the elderly are "more compliant and conformant" because they look back on the ravages of World War II "and find the present more pleasant."

On the other hand, the younger and the better educated "don't look back, they look abroad," said sociologist Michael S. Swafford of Vanderbilt University.

Most of the emigres were happy with their lives in the United States, the researchers said. They are especially pleased with their incomes and the fact that they can get their children into good schools. Their major dislikes were the lack of discipline--as manifested by their children's small amount of homework, for example--and the incidence of crime.

The study was supported by the National Council for Soviet and East European Research.

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