What nation on earth would be considered the world’s most diverse?
How about the world’s most diverse city?
To answer this question, one must be able to “count” diversity. I propose the following categories:
- Ethnicity / Race
- Languages Spoken
- Diverse Cities
So here goes… what nation on earth is the most diverse?
Ethnicity / Race
Ethnicity is very complex. Is it related only to physical characteristics or does it also have linguistic aspects. A country like Papua New Guinea with lots of distinct languages and cultures ranks low on ethnicity scales if the determiner is something like skin color. Race is also problematic in large part because within major racial grouping there are many different cultures.
I am going to suggest that ethnicity and race are not very helpful for determining the answer to this question.
No points awarded.
Shamelessly stealing text from the CIA (can I get in trouble for this?) is perhaps the best list of countries and their spoken languages that I could find. Here it is:
Top 20 Languages by Number of Languages Spoken
Data source: CIA World Fact Book.
|Country||# of languages||% of world
|Official or national language(s)||Total population
(July 2005 est.)
|1.||Papua New Guinea||820||11.86%||Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin,
|3.||Nigeria||516||7.47%||Edo, Efik, Adamawa Fulfulde, Hausa, Idoma, Igbo, Central Kanuri, Yoruba, English||128,771,988|
|4.||India||427||6.18%||Lingua franca: English & Hindi
Official languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Meitei, Nepali, Oriya, Eastern Panjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.
Regional: Hawaiian (in Hawaii), Spanish (in New Mexico)
Regional: Daur, Kalmyk-Oirat, Lu, Peripheral Mongolian, Central Tibetan, Uyghur, Xibe, Northern Zhuang
|10.||Democratic Republic of Congo||216||3.12%||Koongo, Lingala, Luba-Kasai, Congo Swahili, French||60,085,804|
Score a point for Papua New Guinea (PNG).
PNG is very diverse linguistically and culturally. The religious views of PNG’ers are divided between Protestant Christianity and Tribal animism. There are also plenty of “cargo cults” present. Islam is seeking to influence the nation as well.
Religious diversity is a tough one. From my research, there are three countries that lay claim to being the most religiously diverse. There are Indonesia, India, and the United States (I am sure there are others but these come up the most).
Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world. They also have a Buddhist and Hindu presence. Christians make up as much as 15% of the population. Islam makes up for 80% of the population. Islamic repression of other religions, however, would lead me to believe that they are not the most religiously diverse nation. So, I would strike them off the list pretty quickly.
India is the birthplace of four major religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. it is roughly 80% Hindu but also has a substantial islamic population. Within Hinduism there is great diversity as well. India could be a contender for the title of most diverse nation religiously.
However, the title has to go to the United States.
Diane Eck, in her book, A New Religious America : How a Christian Country Has Now Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation, makes a strong case that the United States has become the nation with the greatest number of religions present within its borders. She traces this in part to a change in immigration law back in the 1960’s. It’s the immigration angle that the United States has over other contenders in this category.
Even Canada and Australia, with their relaxed immigration policies, pale by comparison when it comes to the sheer numbers of immigrants who, of course, bring their religions with them. 35 million Americans are legal immigrants who were not born in the USA. Millions more are in the US illegally. That’s 35 million out of the world’s 200 million immigrants (source can be found here). Many immigrants to the US are hispanic and therefore either Catholic or Protestant. However, in “2005 alone more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent U.S. residents — nearly 96,000 — than in any year in the previous two decades” (source can be found here).
Score a point for the USA and this time, the referee can’t take that point away.
Most Diverse City in the World
I could find no conclusive answer to this question. Toronto certainly claims the title, but the data is very suspect.
I know this is very unscientific, but on the various Internet lists I found the following names most commonly:
Again, I will be the first to admit that this is non-scientific. However, the US has two cities in the top five list (I was trying to be objective, HONEST!).
I think the US scores a point here for having two cities in the “most mentioned” list.
SO…. This (biased?) American chooses the United States as the most diverse nation on the planet.
You don’t have to take it from me! I invite you to comment – feel free to critique this assesment and tell me if you feel that it is wrong.
Note: Population Reference Bureau is an excellent website on population statistics and trends is http://prb.org. Check out their annual global report: http://prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2009/2009wpds.aspx Also, Wikipedia is great source – particularly the footnotes, for finding out demographic info. Finally, I would suggest that the best religious data is available on The Joshus Project.