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What is the world’s most diverse country?

When Sadiq Khan was voted in as London Mayor, he announced his city ‘the most diverse and fantastic in the world’. This triggered interest from the BBC which ran a podcast examining his claim. The podcast named the Canadian city of Toronto as the most diverse but in doing so, highlighted a number of methodological problems that also apply when measuring the world’s most diverse country.

World’s most diverse country – methodology

How do we define the world’s most diverse country? We could use the percentage of people born in a different country, but this ignores all second- and third-gen immigrants. Indeed, as the BBC points out itself, Mayor Sadiq Khan wouldn’t count towards diversity by this measure as he was born in the UK.

We could use total nationalities in a country but this also presents problems. The UK might have one person from every country in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is diverse as a meaningful percentage of the overall population.

The two foremost studies in the area use ethnic fractionalisation, an approximation of the probability that two randomly selected individuals from a country will not be from the same ethnic group. This leads to a second set of problems: how do we define an ethnic group?

The first of the two studies (Alesina et al, 2003) uses an objective definition of racial groups, namely Encyclopaedia Britannica. Alas, there are some inconsistencies as Britannica published data for only 124 of 190 countries during the years covered, so Alesina et al completed the list with data from other sources.

The second study (Fearon, 2003) attempts to create the “right list” of groups based on “what people in the country identify as the most socially relevant ethnic groupings.” Fearon’s version covers fewer countries but has been acknowledged by Alesina as “closer to what the theory would want”. Fearon’s list is therefore used for our ranking below.

Insights

Papua New Guinea is the most world’s most diverse country. Interestingly, it is also the world’s most multilingual country. North Korea is the world’s least diverse country and is also the world’s least multilingual country, indicating a tight correlation between the two measures.

Seventeen of the top 20 most diverse countries are African. Clearly, Africa is not a massive homogenous entity as so often thought in the west. (‘Africa is not a country’ has even become a meme.)

The US ranks at 85th, several positions above the UK which ranks at 109th. Australia, which is famously anti-immigration, ranks close to the bottom at 140th. Interestingly, it ranks higher than 12 European countries, all of which appear in the bottom 20 .

World’s most diverse countries – ranked

RankCountryScore
1Papua New Guinea1.000
2Tanzania0.953
3Democratic Republic of Congo0.933
4Uganda0.930
5Liberia0.899
6Cameroon0.887
7Togo0.883
8South Africa0.880
9Congo0.878
10Madagascar0.861
11Gabon0.857
12Kenya0.852
13Ghana0.846
14Malawi0.829
15Guinea-Bissau0.818
16Somalia0.812
17India0.811
18Nigeria0.805
19Yugoslavia (1943-1992)0.801
20Central African Republic0.791
21Ivory Coast0.784
22Lebanon0.780
23Chad0.772
24Indonesia0.766
25Mozambique0.765
26Gambia0.764
27Sierra Leone0.764
28Ethiopia0.760
29Angola0.756
30Mali0.754
31Afghanistan0.751
32Bolivia0.743
33United Arab Emirates0.737
34Senegal0.727
35Zambia0.726
36Namibia0.724
37USSR (1922-1991)0.711
38Sudan (1955-2011)0.708
39Kuwait0.708
40Burkina Faso0.704
41Bosnia and Herzegovina0.681
42Kyrgyzstan0.679
43Nepal0.677
44Iran0.669
45Guinea0.669
46Kazakhstan0.664
47Colombia0.656
48Ecuador0.655
49Eritrea0.647
50Trinidad and Tobago0.647
51Peru0.638
52Niger0.637
53Mauritius0.632
54Mauritania0.625
55Benin0.622
56Guyana0.620
57Djibouti0.606
58Bhutan0.605
59Malaysia0.596
60Canada0.596
61Latvia0.585
62Syria0.581
63Switzerland0.575
64Yugoslavia (1918-1943)0.575
65Belgium0.567
66Fiji0.566
67Saudi Arabia0.553
68Bahrain0.551
69Iraq0.549
70Brazil0.549
71Mexico0.542
72Macedonia0.535
73Pakistan0.532
74Israel0.526
75Burma0.522
76Tajikistan0.513
77Estonia0.511
78Moldova0.510
79Jordan0.509
80Panama0.507
81Czechoslovakia  (1918-1992)0.505
82Spain0.502
83Chile0.497
84Guatemala0.493
85United States0.491
86Georgia0.490
87Uzbekistan0.485
88Venezuela0.483
89Laos0.481
90Morocco0.479
91Oman0.439
92Thailand0.431
93Sri Lanka0.428
94Ukraine0.419
95Nicaragua0.402
96Turkmenistan0.392
97Singapore0.388
98Dominican Republic0.387
99Croatia0.375
100Belarus0.372
101Zimbabwe0.366
102New Zealand0.363
103Cyprus0.359
104Botswana0.351
105Lithuania0.338
106Russia0.333
107Slovakia0.332
108Burundi0.328
109United Kingdom0.324
110Czech Republic0.322
111Algeria0.320
112Romania0.300
113Turkey0.299
114Bulgaria0.299
115Swaziland0.280
116Taiwan0.274
117France0.272
118Mongolia0.272
119Lesotho0.255
120Argentina0.255
121Costa Rica0.238
122Vietnam0.233
123Slovenia0.231
124Bangladesh0.223
125Uruguay0.218
126Cuba0.213
127El Salvador0.198
128Sweden0.189
129Azerbaijan0.188
130Hungary0.186
131Cambodia0.186
132Honduras0.185
133Rwanda0.180
134Ireland0.171
135Jamaica0.166
136Egypt0.164
137Philippines0.161
138China0.154
139Libya0.151
140Australia0.149
141Armenia0.134
142Finland0.132
143Paraguay0.132
144Denmark0.128
145Austria0.126
146Norway0.098
147Albania0.097
148Germany0.095
149Haiti0.095
150Yemen0.078
151Netherlands0.077
152Greece0.059
153Poland0.047
154Portugal0.040
155Italy0.040
156Tunisia0.039
157Japan0.012
158South Korea0.004
159North Korea0.002

Source: Fearon, 2003

Lead image: Dreamstime

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