Ethnic heterogeneity

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Ethnic heterogeneity
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The relationships between the ethnic heterogeneity of different areas and other variables have been examined in scientific studies.

One cause for the problems in areas with high ethnic heterogeneity has been argued to be that when an area is no longer ethnically homogeneous then ethnic nepotism will cause the different ethnicities to try to promote their own ethnic interests and it becomes difficult to govern the whole area rationally.[1][2]


Trust, social capital, and "hunkering down"

A well-known study by Robert D. Putnam found that higher ethnic heterogeneity was associated with lower trust between people, lower social capital and a "hunkering down" where people avoid engagement with their local community. This occurs both between different ethnic groups and within ethnic groups. This has been associated with many negative effects (many of which are mentioned in different sections in this article).[3]

A 2015 study in Denmark found that the negative effect of ethnic diversity on trust occurred when there was high ethnic diversity in the immediate surrounding residential area but not when the ethnic diversity was further away. This was interpreted as supporting that "interethnic exposure" (which is more inevitable if ethnic diversity is high in the local area) decreases trust.[4]

Participation in organizations, volunteer activity, census response rate and voting

An overview of different studies published in 2003 stated that higher ethnic heterogeneity in an area is associated with negative effects regarding many variables such as participation in organizations, volunteer activity, census response rate and voting.[5]


A 2011 study in Canada found that higher ethnic heterogeneity reduced the size of individual donations to private charities.[6]

Life satisfaction

A 2004 study in the UK found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in an area was associated with lower life satisfaction.[7]

A 2016 study in the UK found "that an increase in “diversity” makes existing residents of an area feel unhappier and more socially isolated, while those leaving for more homogenous areas populated by their own ethic group often get happier."[8]

Depression, psychosis, and suicide

Studies have found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in an area is associated with a higher risk of depression.[9][10]

A 2012 study in the UK found that the risk of psychosis increased when a person lived in an area with a lower percentage of people from the same ethnicity.[11]

A 2003 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in a country was associated with a higher frequency of suicide.[12]


A 2012 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity was associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer for elderly individuals.[13]

A 2016 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity was associated with poorer health outcomes for 91 studied countries.[14]


A 2010 study found that countries with "moderate" levels of ethnic diversity had the best scores on the "Environmental Performance Index" and that increasing ethnic diversity beyond this was associated worsening environmental performance.[15]

Educational performance

A 2010 study found that higher ethnic diversity in a country was associated with lower results on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).[16]

Higher education

A 2017 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in US states is associated with less public spending on higher education.[17]

Economic development

A 2009 review stated that higher ethnic heterogeneity is associated with lower economic development. Possible causes included less support for public goods, increased rent seeking and lower levels of social capital.[18]

A 2011 study in China found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in Chinese provinces was associated with lower economic growth. A 2013 study in China found decreased quality of export goods in Chinese provinces with higher ethnic heterogeneity. Possible explanations included increased communication difficulties and antagonism between workers.[19][20]

A 2012 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity decreased the tourism competitiveness of a country. Possible causes included negative effects on political institutions, the economy and the environment.[21]

A 2017 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity was associated with increased poverty in studied developing countries.[22]


A 2016 study found that higher ethnic diversity was associated with lower innovation.[23]

Corruption, informal economy, and tax morale

Higher ethnic heterogeneity in an area has been associated was with higher corruption.[24]

A 2007 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity was associated with a larger informal economy in a country.[25]

A 2010 study found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in country was associated with lower tax morale.[26]


A large number of studies have examined if ethnically heterogeneous areas have higher crime rates than ethnically homogenous areas. The areas that have been studied are often different areas in large cities. Almost all studies have found that higher ethnic heterogeneity is associated with higher crime rates.[27]

Studies have found that higher ethnic heterogeneity in a country is associated with a higher rate of homicide.[28][29]

Ethnic conflicts

Tatu Vanhanen stated in the book Ethnic Conflicts - Their Biological Roots in Ethnic Nepotism (2012) that differences in ethnic heterogeneity between countries explained 66% of the global variation in ethnic conflicts. The degree of democracy and the degree of economic development explained only small parts.[1]

Vanhanen's earlier book Ethnic Conflicts Explained by Ethnic Nepotism (1999) examined the countries that partly differed from the general pattern that ethnic heterogeneity is associated with more ethnic conflicts. One such group was harsh authoritarian states like Communist countries and oil-rich Arab countries with a large population of foreign guest workers who could be quickly expelled if conflicts emerged. However, large ethnic conflicts quickly emerged in ethnically heterogeneous Communist countries once the harsh state control disappeared.

Another group that partially differed consisted of poor countries were most of the populations were farmers who had little contact with other ethnic groups. Vanhanen predicted that the degree of ethnic conflicts would increase if these countries modernized.

Ethnically heterogeneous democratic countries that gave a large degree of autonomy to different ethnic areas or that explicitly divided the state apparatus between different ethnicities also had relatively low degree of ethnic conflicts (but still higher than ethnically homogenous countries). A counter-example was the long civil war in Lebanon that had occurred despite the state apparatus being explicitly divided between the different ethnicities but Vanhanen thought this was war was in large parts caused by foreign influences.

Countries that had an unusually high degree of ethnic conflicts included countries were the different groups markedly differed in physical appearance. One example was the conflict between Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda and Burundi. Another example was countries in the Sahara region that had populations from both Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. Vanhanen described the situation in many of these countries as being close to civil war. Civil wars between the northern and southern parts of many of these countries in fact occurred after the book was written. Some countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia have been formally divided.

Vanhanen saw no easy solution to the ethnic conflicts which were argued to be largely caused by genetically caused ethnic nepotism. He recommended that countries with a high degree of ethnic heterogeneity should be divided along ethnic lines whenever possible. This could be an alternative in the future even for countries such as the United States as ethnic conflicts were predicted to increase due to the demographic changes.

External links

The Alternative Hypothesis


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tatu Vanhanen. Ethnic Conflicts - Their Biological Roots in Ethnic Nepotism. 2012. Ulster Institute for Social Research, London.
  2. Frank Saltera, Henry Harpendin. J.P. Rushton’s theory of ethnic nepotism. Personality and Individual Differences. In Press.
  3. Robert Putnam (2007). "E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century -- The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture". Scandinavian Political Studies 30 (2): 137–174.
  4. Peter Thisted Dinesen and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov. Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust. Evidence from the Micro-Context. American Sociological Review April 21, 2015. doi: 10.1177/0003122415577989
  5. Costa, Dora L., and Matthew E. Kahn. "Civic engagement and community heterogeneity: An economist's perspective." Perspective on Politics 1.01 (2003): 103-111.
  6. James Andreoni, Abigail Payne, Justin D. Smith, David Karp. Diversity and Donations: The Effect of Religious and Ethnic Diversity on Charitable Giving. 2011. NBER Working Paper No. 17618.
  7. Bobby Duffy. Life satisfaction and trust in other people. March 2004. Mori social research institute.
  8. STUDY: Increased Ethnic Diversity Making Brits Miserable.
  9. Wickrama, K. A. S. and Bryant, C. M. (2003), Community Context of Social Resources and Adolescent Mental Health. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65: 850–866. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00850.x
  10. Matheson FI, Moineddin R, Dunn JR, Creatore MI, Gozdyra P, Glazier RH (2006) Urban neighborhoods, chronic stress, gender and depression. Soc Sci Med 63 (10):2604-16.
  11. Das-Munshi J, Bécares L, Boydell JE, Dewey ME, Morgan C, Stansfeld SA et al. (2012) Ethnic density as a buffer for psychotic experiences: findings from a national survey (EMPIRIC). Br J Psychiatry 201 (4):282-90.
  12. Eric Neumayer. Are Socio-Economic Factors Valid Determinants of Suicide? Controlling for National Cultures of Suicide with Fixed-Effects Estimation. Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 3, No. 37, pp. 307-329, 2003
  13. Alvarez KJ, Levy BR (2012) Health advantages of ethnic density for African American and Mexican American elderly individuals. Am J Public Health 102 (12):2240-2. DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300787
  14. Churchill, S. A., Ocloo, J. E., & Siawor-Robertson, D. (2016). Ethnic Diversity and Health Outcomes. Social Indicators Research, 1-36.
  15. Jayoti Das. Cassandra E. DiRienzo. Is Ethnic Diversity Good for the Environment? A Cross-Country Analysis. The Journal of Environment Development March 2010 vol. 19 no.
  16. Jaap Dronkers. Positive but also negative effects of ethnic diversity in schools on educational performance? An empirical test using cross-national PISA data. 2010. MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany.
  17. Foster, J. M., & Fowles, J. (2017). Ethnic Heterogeneity, Group Affinity, and State Higher Education Spending. Research in Higher Education, 1-28.
  18. Gustav Ranis. Diversity of Communities and Economic Development: An Overview. Yale University - Department of Economics. September 18, 2009.
  19. Dincer, Oguzhan C., and Fan Wang. "Ethnic diversity and economic growth in China." Journal of Economic Policy Reform 14.1 (2011): 1-10.
  20. Tuan Anh Luong, Rong Huang, Shenyu Li. Ethnic Diversity and the Quality of Exports: Evidence from Chinese firm-level data. Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. October 25, 2013.
  21. Das, Jayoti; DiRienzo, Cassandra. Tourism Competitiveness and the Role of Fractionalization International Journal of Tourism Research. Volume 14, Issue 3, pages 285–297, May/June 2012 DOI: 10.1002/jtr.866.
  22. Churchill, S. A., & Smyth, R. (2017). Ethnic Diversity and Poverty. World Development, 95, 285-302.
  23. Diversity and innovation. (2016). Bala Ramasamy and Matthew C. H. Yeung. Applied Economics Letters. Published online: 12 Feb 2016. DOI: 10.1080/13504851.2015.1130785
  24. Pelle Ahlerup. The Causal Effects of Ethnic Diversity: An Instrumental Variables Approach. 2009-10-05. Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Box 640, SE 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden.
  25. David Dreyer Lassen, Ethnic divisions, trust, and the size of the informal sector, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 63, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 423-438, ISSN 0167-2681, 10.1016/j.jebo.2005.07.001.
  26. Sherry Xin. Social Identities, Ethnic Diversity, and Tax Morale. Public Finance Review, 2010, vol. 38, issue 2, pages 146-177.
  27. Handbook of Crime Correlates; Lee Ellis, Kevin M. Beaver, John Wright; 2009; Academic Press
  28. Irshad Altheimer. Assessing the Relevance of Ethnic Heterogeneity as a Predictor of Homicide at the Cross‐National Level International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice. Vol. 31, Iss. 1, 2007.
  29. Don Soo Chon. The Impact of Population Heterogeneity and Income Inequality on Homicide Rates: A Cross-National Assessment Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol August 2012 56: 730-748, first published on July 4, 2011 doi:10.1177/0306624X11414813
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