When reporting the demographic data of a particular population, researchers use a wide range of terms to classify people. These classifications are determined by specific demographic factors, including age, sex, education, economic status and marital status. Most have relatively clear definitions, but the meaning of other terminology used in the demographic data is less clear. Some commonly confused demographic terms are “nationality” and “ethnicity”. These terms, although somewhat related, are often used incorrectly interchangeably: this article explores the differences between the two words and how they are related.
What is the nationality?
Nationality refers to the country from which a person comes. In many cases, nationality is the country where a person was born, but it is not always so. The term nationality should only be used to identify a person’s membership of a particular country, which is determined by the nationality policies of that country. It also refers to the protections offered to an individual by their nationality status. This concept is very similar to citizenship, although technically citizenship is associated with a person’s internal political relationship with their country, while nationality is associated with a person’s international interactions. For example, nationality does not always guarantee the right to participate in the political processes of a country. Identifying with nationality often results in feelings of nationalism or patriotism. Examples of nationalities include the following identities: British, American, Indian, Canadian and Nigerian.
What is ethnicity?
Ethnicity has much less association with the country in which a person was born or resides. On the contrary, ethnicity is used to describe a group of people who share a common culture based on factors such as language, religion, descent, clothing, cuisine and heritage. A person can change ethnicity by acculturation, religious conversion or by adopting a different language. However, nationality may not change. Belonging to a specific ethnic group means belonging to a specific subgroup within a larger population. A person’s ethnicity is based on the inherited characteristics held by that person. Individuals refer to this ethnic group and identity as a result of their shared history, beliefs and traditions. THE’ ethnicity is often classified as one (or more) of the following groups: ethno-racial, ethno-national, ethno-linguistic, ethno-religious and ethno-regional. The ethnic groups include the following identities: the French-Canadian in Canada, the Kongo in Africa and the Afro-American in the United States. In short, nationality is more a legal concept, while ethnicity is cultural.
Relationship between ethnicity and nationality
Although both terms have distinct differences, ethnicity and nationality can be linked, particularly in cases of international immigration or colonialism. For example, when people change the locations of their residence, or when the power of government changes their official nationality, for example through colonialism, they tend to identify with people who share their ethnicity. This also explains how people with the same nationality can have different ethnicities. An example of this is evident in all African countries, where colonial borders have been maintained post-colonialists. These political boundaries do not respect traditional and tribal boundaries and result in multi-ethnic countries as tribal members find themselves divided between nations.