01 July 2013

The Most Ethnically Diverse Country on the Planet

Surprising? This map shows the planet's most and least ethnically diverse nations in the world. The countries in green are the most diverse, while those in red are the least.
This morning, a couple of Facebook friends posted links to a news article about a report from Harvard University's Institute for Economic Research regarding the most and least diverse countries and continents in the world. The article in Daily Mail Online is the most comprehensive I've sound so far. The conclusion of the study was that Uganda is the most ethnically diverse country on the planet and Africa is the most ethnically diverse continent. When I first read the news reports, I immediately thought they were wrong. After all, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has more than 300 different language groups.

I've given this some more thought. While the conclusion seems counter-intuitive — i.e., there are many countries, including the US, that have more ethnic representation — I think there are at least two items in this report that give clues about the methodology that led to the outcome. First, the Daily Mail article and the Pearl Guide report mention, "Uganda is home to more than 40 different indigenous ethnic groups...." The first key may be "indigenous" — the US, for instance, has fewer "indigenous" ethnic groups. I say "may" because, not having seen the original report, I don't know if that was really a factor in the research or simply an addition by a reporter.

Second, and probably more significant, is that it appears that the conclusion is based on what might be termed 'ethnic density' (my term — I started to say, "ethnic diversity density"). Note the question that the study attempted to answer, "If you picked two people at random in any nation and asked them their ethnicity, what are the chances that they would give a different answer?" A higher number of ethnic groups combined with a lower overall population would increase the odds that two people picked at random would be of a different ethnic group. Note that one couldn't just walk up to two people in, say, Mityana and expect those probabilities to hold true — it would have to be random selection out of the population of the entire nation.

I would be very interested in reading the study. I haven't found it, yet, so if someone comes across it, please post the link.

Run well, y'all,
Bob Allen