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A Voice in the Process: A cross-national look at ethnic inclusion and economic growth in the world


Does greater ethnic inclusion into the executive have a positive effect on a country’s economic development? We posit that by allowing for greater diversity in a state’s decision-making process, ethnic populations find their preferences represented and thus are more likely to support enacted policies; at the same time the quality of the policy increases as a greater variety of perspectives are introduced. Utilizing the new AMAR (All-Minorities at Risk) data to capture ethnic diversity, this article offers a preliminary description, suggesting that higher levels of inclusion positively correlate with indicators of economic growth.

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  1. For an overview of this literature and critique of the methods used see Posner (2004).

  2. See Birnir (2007) and Birnir and Satana (2013) for detailed descriptions of these data.

  3. For example, the Assamese in India are coded as a junior partner in EPR; however, the democratic access data utilized in the Birnir and Waguespack (2011) study does not list Assamese as having a seat in the executive cabinet of the central government though they do control a state-level government. Likewise, we recoded certain ethnic groups marked as ‘irrelevant’ by EPR as having access for all instances where irrelevance stemmed from ethnic homogeneity or the lack of ethnic challengers in the country, according to EPR’s measures. For example, the Danes in Denmark are considered irrelevant in EPR 2010, since they are purportedly the only ethnic group in the country; however, when paired with AMAR, Muslims, another socially relevant group in the country, emerges.

  4. Importantly, widely recognized and socially relevant is not synonymous with all possible ethnic configurations. Rather the set of widely recognized and socially relevant is a subset of all possible ethnic structures. For further discussion of this issue, see Posner (2004, 2005), Chandra and Wilkinson (2008), Birnir et al. (forthcoming).

  5. The AMAR data lists several subgroups to the aggregate category of indigenous in Chile that individually may be important to different types of analysis. With respect to national level statistics, such as economic growth, we use the aggregate categories from the sample frame as those likely have the greatest national relevance (Birnir et al., 2014).

  6. One contributing factor might be the fact that some of the ethnic groups in Western Europe are recent East European immigrant.

  7. To be clear the correlations shown here are not all statistically significant or even close to significance. Future analysis, using appropriate methods and including controls is needed to verify the descriptive trends suggested here.


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Explores the role greater ethnic inclusion may have on a country’s economic development, using a new approach to creating a comprehensive list of ethnic groups worldwide 64 Shared Societies and Peace: The ends and means

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Birnir, J., Dunford, E. A Voice in the Process: A cross-national look at ethnic inclusion and economic growth in the world. Development 57, 55–63 (2014).

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  • ethnic diversity
  • inclusion
  • political access
  • economic growth
  • development