Standard Cross-Cultural Sample by George P. Murdock and Douglas R. White

The Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (see Wikipedia entry and SCCS at intersciwiki) contains the best-described society in each of 186 cultural provinces of the world chosen at a time when cultural independence is maximal: hence it is primarily a sample of PREINDUSTRIAL societies. It is a collective series of data based on a sample selection by George P. Murdock and Douglas R. White of 186 ethnographically well-described societies, published in the journal ETHNOLOGY in 1969, and followed by scores of publications by diverse authors that coded the SCCS societies for many different types of societal characteristics. Cumulative ethnographic codes and codebooks are published in the World Cultures electronic journal which adds the geographical coordinates and computerizing mapping through the journal's MAPTAB program, by Douglas R. White. The SCCS variables include those in the Ethnographic Atlas, but in a form useful for testing hypotheses, since the cases in the sample are maximally independent.

Contrary to common opinion, neither the SCCS nor the Ethno-Atlas have anything to do with HRAF (the Human Relations Area Files), which Murdock had founded at Yale in the 1940s. The codes for societies in the Atlas were based on his ethnographic readings in the Yale Library and his personal collection of monographs and articles, although some of the sources were available in the HRAF collection. His codes have nothing to do whatever with the codes by which the HRAF collection indexes their materials. The Standard Sample database classifies characteristics of the societies based on the research of different authors. Codes can often be cross-checked across different studies for reliability.


The SCCS database currently contains more than 1,400 variables coded by fifty or more different studies. Advantages of the standard sample are:
  • Sufficiently large sample size to test multivariate hypotheses
  • Sufficiently small to allow complete coding by different authors
  • Standard pinpointing of dates, focal groups and bibliography for cumulative coding
  • Maximal independence of cases in terms of cultural and historical origin
  • Provision of standard Galton's problem controls for historical nonindependence of cases
  • Provision of multiple data quality ratings
  • Spss version for the standard sample database, by William DiVale, slated for publication in World Cultures
  • MicroCase commercial site sells software and the SCCS public domain data for the standard sample
  • The Short Course on Research using Spss with the Standard-Cross-Cultural Sample offers the latest Spss SCCS data free for students and instructors and requires only Spss for data analysis: statistical analysis, graphic displays, and maps.