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Conceptualizing and Measuring Ethnicity

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  • Graham Brown
  • Arnim Langer

Abstract

This paper critically reviews the ontological debates over the nature of ethnicity and the different ways in which it is operationalized and “measured” for quantitative research. It is argued that while moving away from a “primordealist” position on ethnicity renders measurement of the social diversity more difficult, conceptually and practically it does not invalidate this exercise. A second problem, however, is also identified with the measurement of ethnicity: when information on ethnic diversity is incorporated with other socio-economic information, a range of measures can be derived that purport to pick up very different distributions, but that are in reality often very highly correlated. These two problems combined present a significant challenge for the quantitative study of the relationship between ethnic diversity and political and economic outcomes such as conflict and growth patterns. The authors do not assert that these problems invalidate the exercise of investigating these relationships econometrically entirely, but they suggest the problems do warn us to be more guarded and modest in the claims made on the basis of such analyses.

Suggested Citation

  • Graham Brown & Arnim Langer, 2010. "Conceptualizing and Measuring Ethnicity," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 411-436.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:38:y:2010:i:4:p:411-436 DOI: 10.1080/13600818.2010.525629
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Servaas Van Der Berg & Megan Louw, 2004. "Changing Patterns Of South African Income Distribution: Towards Time Series Estimates Of Distribution And Poverty," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 72(3), pages 546-572, September.
    2. Sambanis, Nicholas, 1999. "Ethnic partition as a solution to ethnic war - an empirical critique of the theoretical literature," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2208, The World Bank.
    3. Ukoha Ukiwo, 2005. "The Study of Ethnicity in Nigeria," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(1), pages 7-23.
    4. Maasoumi, Esfandiar, 1986. "The Measurement and Decomposition of Multi-dimensional Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 991-997, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Philipp Kolo, 2016. "A dissimilarity-adjusted index of ethnic diversity: Measurement and implications for findings on conflict, growth and trade," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 195, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    2. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:3:p:622-643 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Frances Stewart, 2011. "Economic and Political Causes of Genocidal Violence: A comparison with findings on the causes of civil war," Research Working Papers 46, MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict.
    4. Philipp Kolo, 2012. "Measuring a New Aspect of Ethnicity - The Appropriate Diversity Index," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 221, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.

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