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I was surprised to see Canada rate as more diverse than the United States or even Mexico; it's possible that the survey counted Quebecois as ethnically distinct, although I can't say for sure. The range of diversity from Morocco to Iran is a reminder that this part of the world is much less monolithic than we sometimes think.North African countries include large Berber minorities, for example, as well as some sub-Saharan ethnic groups, particularly in Libya.In other words, as in the case of Somalia, maybe worsening economic conditions or war make people more likely to further divide along ethnic fractions.

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For centuries, Europe's borders shifted widely and frequently, only relatively recently settling into what we see today, in which most large ethnic groups have a country of their own. And while there are still some exceptions – Belgium has ethnic Walloons and Dutch, for example – in most of Europe, ethnicity and nationality are pretty close to the same thing. From the United States through Central America down to Brazil, the "new world" countries, maybe in part because of their histories of relatively open immigration (and, in some cases, intermingling between natives and new arrivals) tend to be pretty diverse.

The exception is South America's "southern cone," where Argentines and Chileans, many of whom originally come from the same handful of Western European countries, tend to be more homogenous.

• Strong democracy correlates with ethnic homogeneity.

This does not mean that one necessarily causes the other; the correlation might be caused by some other factor or factors.

Uganda has by far the highest ethnic diversity rating, according to the data, followed by Liberia.

In fact, the world's 20 most diverse countries are all African.Ethnicity, like race, is a social construct, but it's still a construct with significant implications for the world.How people perceive ethnicity, both their own and that of others, can be tough to measure, particularly given that it's so subjective. When five economists and social scientists set out to measure ethnic diversity for a landmark 2002 paper for the Harvard Institute of Economic Research, they started by comparing data from an array of different sources: national censuses, Encyclopedia Brittanica, the CIA, Minority Rights Group International and a 1998 study called "Ethnic Groups Worldwide." They looked for consistence and inconsistence in the reports to determine what data set would be most reliable and complete.Because data sources such as censuses or surveys are self-reported – in other words, people are classified how they ask to be classified – the ethnic group data reflects how people see themselves, not how they're categorized by outsiders.Those results measured 650 ethnic groups in 190 countries.And richer countries appear more likely to be homogenous.This map is particularly interesting viewed alongside data we examined yesterday on racial tolerance, as measured by the frequency with which people in certain countries said they would not want a neighbor from a different racial group. And given the scarcity of information from some countries, some of the data are very old, dating from as far back as the early 1990s or even late 1980s.It's entirely possible, then, that some of these diversity "scores" would look different with present-day data.Another caveat is that people in different countries might have different bars for what constitutes a distinct ethnicity.The report notes, "our measures of linguistic and ethnic fractionalization are highly correlated with latitude and GDP per capita.Therefore it is quite difficult to disentangle the effect of these three variables on the quality of government." As above, keep in mind that correlation and causation aren't the same thing.

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