What is it about?

In most parliaments across the world, there are few parliamentarians from ethnic minority groups. There are also countries where the share of parliamentarians from ethnic minority groups corresponds largely to that of the population. Using newly collected data on the ethnic groups present in national parliaments in 95 democracies around the world, I examine which factors are associated with ethnic groups being present in proportion to their share in the population. Considering both electoral and cultural variables, it appears that the electoral system does not dominate whether ethnic minority groups are present in proportion. In contrast to previous literature, it seems that the absence and under-representation of ethnic minority groups in national parliaments is associated with cultural variables, in particular liberal attitudes towards marginalised groups in society.

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Why is it important?

The inclusion of different groups in decision-making lies at the heart of liberal democracies. When ethnic minority groups are excluded from positions of power, the legitimacy of parliaments and the political system can be questioned. The exclusion and marginalization of ethnic minority groups can also lead to conflict.


This article reflects an ambition to move beyond considering only whether women are included in parliaments. There were assumptions and case studies around, but no comparative studies. Collecting the data behind this article was a major endeavour, but it left me satisfied in that I could contribute new data to the research community. Many times I had my doubts I could approach 'ethnic groups' in an adequate way, but in the sense of a temporarily fixed view of how different societies are organized in terms of ethnic groups (or not), I'm satisfied with the result.

Didier Ruedin
Universite de Neuchatel

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Ethnic Group Representation in a Cross-National Comparison, Journal of Legislative Studies, December 2009, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13572330903302448.
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