Ethnicity, Ethnic minority vs. ethnic majority

Ethnicity has been defined as: "the social group a person belongs to, and either identifies with or is identified with by others, as a result of a mix of cultural and other factors including language, diet, religion, ancestry and physical features traditionally associated with race" (Bhopal, 2004, p. 442).

It is important to make a distinction between the concepts of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’. Race is a socially meaningful category of people who share biologically transmitted traits that are obvious and considered important. In contrast to the idea of race, ethnicity simply means a shared cultural heritage (Goodfriend, 2010, p. 19).

Ethnic minorities are people with ethnic origins different from the majority of the public. People of first, second or later generations, who can be distinguished from the majority of people living in a specific country or region, through their color of skin, family names, specific habits or behavior and who can be identified as a minority in regard to most inhabitants of a specific country. Ethnic minority covers a wide range of people in certain situations: historical national minorities, migrants, immigrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers or people from former colonies and people with trans-national identities.

Another way that these concepts could be considered is the division of people up into the categories of 'majority' versus 'minority' status. (Horcajo, Petty, Briñol, 2010, p. 512) When we are talking about race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other socially meaningful group of people, the majority refers to the social group considered to have the most power in a particular place (and sometimes the most members). The definition of a social minority is any category of people distinguished by either a physical or cultural difference that a society has subordinated, or attributed a subaltern status.

The concept of ethnicity is a major aspect of social inequality in modern societies. The YOUNG_ADULLLT project is particularly interested in how the status of ethnic minority might act as a significant barrier to social inclusion of young people. 


Bhopal, R. (2004). Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: for reflection and debate. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Vol. 58, pp. 441-445.

Goodfriend, W. (2010). Race and Ethnicity Definitions: Social Minority vs. Social Majority, Lecture Material, Buena Vista University, in: “Intro to Sociology/Introducing Race & Diversity“, p. 26.

 Thomas, A. D., & Goodfriend, W. (2009). Ethnicity and abuse in intimate partner relationships: A Black and White examination. Modern Psychological Studies, Vol. 14, pp. 17-34.

Horcajo, J., Petty, R. E. & Briñol, P. (2010). The effects of majority versus minority source status on persuasion: a self-validation analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 99, No. 3, pp. 498-512.

(Borislava Petkova)