Research Report: Does Diversity Hurt Democracy?

Issue Date January 2004
Volume 15
Issue 1
Page Numbers 154-166
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Freedom House president Adrian Karatynycky has claimed in the Journal of Democracy that “democracy has been significantly more successful in monoethnic societies than in ethnically divided and multiethnic societies.” Is this often-heard claim true? Does heterogeneity promote conflict and harm democratization? Our cross-national analysis finds scant evidence for this notion. Since the obverse of this argument—i.e., that social diversity portends disastrous conflict and therefore calls for authoritarian politics—is a favorite rationale put forward by undemocratic leaders in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere, we suggest that students and friends of democracy should treat the alleged link between diversity and division with skepticism.

About the Authors

M. Steven Fish

M. Steven Fish is a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

View all work by M. Steven Fish

Robin S. Brooks

Robin S. Brooks is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is writing her dissertation on ethnic identity and political change in southeastern Europe.

View all work by Robin S. Brooks