Ethnic Diversity Measured

In trying to explain why Canada has lower gun death rates than the US, Bruce Hall boldly asserts that Canada is more ethnically homogenous than the US. I wonder in this data-rich era why people make bold assertions like this.

Mr. Hall bases his assertion on data analyzed by Political Calculations. For reasons I have highlighted here, here, and here, this is an ill advised decision. It’s also strange, as social scientists have been creating indices based on formal definitions of diversity. One associated with Alesina, et al. (2002), ethnic fractionalization, which is measured as follows:

If you called up two people at random in a particular country and ask them their ethnicity, what are the odds that they would give different answers? The higher the odds, the more ethnically “fractionalized” or diverse the country.

These indices (data here as XLS file) are graphically depicted in the following map:

Source: Fisher (2013).

So…Canada has greater ethnic diversity, and yet a lower gun homicide rate.

25 thoughts on “Ethnic Diversity Measured

  1. Rick Stryker


    You have in no way refuted Bruce’s or Ironman’s point. I wonder why you would boldly claim that Canada is more diverse than the US when you haven’t looked carefully at the data you are citing. If you did look at it, you’d see that the ethnicity index depends on racial differences in some countries and on linguistic differences in others. In Switzerland, for example, the ethnicity index counts German, French, Italian, etc. speakers as having different ethnicity. Obviously, this index makes Canada look more ethnically diverse than the US because it counts French-speaking Canadians as having a different ethnicity than English-speaking Canadians. That distinction is hardly relevant to the gun debate.

    1. Rick Stryker

      Yes, I know, I know, I know. 500K job growth, etc. etc. Long time readers know what’s coming. There, I said it for you to save you some typing.

        1. Rick Stryker


          If you’d like to remind readers about a 5-year old discussion, then by all means I won’t stand in the way of you embarrassing yourself. Let’s jump into the time machine, turn the dial back to May 2012, and find out who was right and who was wrong. Remember that you said:

          “Rick Stryker: Um. Ok. So, 500,000 is a reasonable expectation, and so is 4% unemployment, except when it isn’t, in which case it is aspirational. I concur, then, that Governor Romney has a strong grasp of the data, in that alternate world.”

          And I replied:

          No, both 500K and 4% are reasonable expectations since they both happened many times historically. The question is whether 4% can reasonably be expected by the end of Romney’s first term, not whether it can be achieved at all.”

          You then followed up with:

          “Rick Stryker: I have evaluated your 500K statement in percentage terms in a new post. You clearly have no acquaintance with the data. When you state unemployment has been at or below 4% many times, you do realize that in the past 40 years the total number of months that is true is 11. Please consult the data again.”

          You were pretty clear that 4% unemployment is an unreasonable expectation, since it’s only happened 11 times in the last 40 years. I disagreed. You dismissively said “You clearly have no acquaintance with the data,” You also said “Please consult the data again.”

          For your readers Menzie, can you please state for the record the current unemployment rate?

    2. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: Hmm. I suspect you’ve never lived in Canada and talked with French speaking Canadians as well as English speaking Canadians, except perhaps on a cursory basis. Front de Liberation du Québec must’ve been a figment of the “fake news” media of the 1970’s in your fevered mind. While that was extreme, the idea that these group consider themselves the same is hilarious.

      1. Rick Stryker


        You are responding to a point I didn’t make. I never said that English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians consider themselves the same. My point to state it again is: “That distinction is hardly relevant to the gun debate.”

        You are using the fact that Canada is more linguistically diverse to claim that it is more ethnically diverse than the US in a way that is relevant for the firearm homicide rate. But if you look at data in our data rich environment, FBI data specifically, you can see that murder offenders and victims are disproportionately African-American when broken out by race. When broken out by ethnicity, murder offenders are disproportionately Hispanic or Latino. We also know that murders are highly concentrated in a relatively few small areas around the country, reflecting gang violence, drugs, failing schools, etc.

        A sensible diversity comparison between the US and Canada when comparing murder rates, therefore, would not consider linguistic differences but would rather compare racial and ethnic demographics. Ironman’s chart along these relevant dimensions showed that the US is more diverse than Canada and that was Bruce’s point.

    3. 2slugbaits

      If you did look at it, you’d see that the ethnicity index depends on racial differences in some countries and on linguistic differences in others.

      Why is that a problem with the index? The fact that you see racial differences as being more important in determining ethnicity tells us more about you than it does any of those countries. The whole point of the index is to gauge the extent to which people self-identify as being more or less like everyone else in their country. That seems like a perfectly useful way to look at things. My concerns with the index is the date…it’s 15 years old. For example, Spain is in the news lately because Catalonian ethnicity is now a bigger fault line than it was in 2002. Similar story with the Flemish and Walloon ethnic groupings in Belgium. But yet those countries are shown as relatively homogeneous. Or look at what’s happening in Germany with respect to immigrant Turks.

      1. Rick Stryker


        I never said that racial differences are more important in determining ethnicity. I was merely pointing out that using linguistic differences in Canada to argue that Canada is more diverse than the US does not make sense when talking about homicide rates.

        The index is fine for the use for which it was constructed–to help explain differences in growth rates, political conflict, etc. between countries. But use of this diversity index does not make sense in the gun control debate.

        1. 2slugbaits

          Rick Stryker using linguistic differences in Canada to argue that Canada is more diverse than the US does not make sense when talking about homicide rates.

          How do you know this? Linguistic differences between Spanish and English speaking Americans may very well make sense when talking about homicide rates. Why is it so impossible to believe that differences between French and English speaking Canadians might also be important? Is it because Canadians are more polite and don't litter? Religious differences between Catholics and Protestants certainly made a huge difference in recent Irish history. In tough economic times people tend to join tribes, and all too often those tribes turn small differences into life threatening differences.

          BTW, I'm old enough to remember when linguistic differences in Canada were important enough to lead to the kidnapping and murder of government officials and Trudeau's invoking of the War Measures Act.

          1. Rick Stryker


            I know this because gun violence in America is not about religious or nationalistic conflict. Gun violence in America is about the legacy of slavery, racism, poverty, failed schools, gangs, an unfair legal system, and drugs. That doesn’t explain it all, but it explains a lot of it. Homicide by gun is highly concentrated in specific, small, areas of the country.

  2. PeakTrader

    It seems, blacks and Hispanics make up 3% to 4% of Canada’s population.

    What’s the percentage in the U.S.?

    1. PeakTrader

      We know per 100,000 people the homicide rate of blacks is 19.5, Hispanics 5.3, and whites 2.5. However, what is white?

      “…a majority of Hispanics actually self-identify as white. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 53 percent of Hispanics chose “white “ as their race.”

    2. Steven Kopits

      Interestingly, the murder rate in the US jumped with Prohibition. Here’s a revealing article on the matter from Brian Doherty. It is well worth reading.

      Similarly, as you know, I have been spending some significant time on market-based immigration. Here again, we are speaking of black market, to which someone (was it Bruce?) linked an op-ed in The Hill claiming that 1/3 of all US homicides were committed by illegal immigrants. I think you have to be really careful to make sure US crime statistics are saying what you think they are, but it goes along with black markets. Indeed, if you look at the Wall, the murder rates just south of it on the Mexican side are astronomical.

      The current US murder rate is similarly driven by drug-related gang violence, predominantly in inner city neighborhoods, to Bruce’s point.

      If you migrated to market-based immigration and legalized most drugs, you could probably cut the US murder rate by perhaps two-thirds.

      1. PeakTrader

        The internet is saturated with propaganda about Prohibition and the War on Drugs by drug users and libertarians, who want to legalize some drugs.

        The murder rate was rising sharply well before Prohibition, which reduced alcohol consumption dramatically.

        And, trillions of dollars in social costs were saved by the War on Drugs, which include lost productivity, traffic & work accidents, health problems & drug treatment, mental illness, unemployment, crime, domestic violence, child abuse, and other social services.”

      2. PeakTrader

        Moreover, there’s a positive correlation between crime and alcohol or drug use (and, taking both simultaneously is a powerful combination). When you legalize something, you get more of it.

        1. PeakTrader

          Is Illinois winning the War on Drugs?
          Chicago Tribune
          July 24, 2011

          Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago…noted that Chicago’s decreasing crime is an important indicator that the so-called War on Drugs is working.

          About 70 percent of all crime can be traced to drugs, he said, and crime in the city is at its lowest in years.

          “They (police, DEA, etc.) believe in what we’re doing because they see the devastation drugs are causing.”

          My comment: Drug abuse is positively correlated with high school drop out rates, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, depression & suicide, psychiatric disorders, criminal activity, injuries & disabilities, and reduced longevity.

          1. PeakTrader

            Legalization Won’t Kill the Cartels
            New York Times
            June 18, 2011

            “For a growing number of American policy makers, politicians and activists, the best answer to the spiraling violence in Mexico is to legalize the marijuana that, they argue, fuels the country’s vicious cartels and smugglers.

            Legalization would move that trade into the open market, driving down the price…there’s no reason the cartels couldn’t enter the legal market for the sale of marijuana, as organized crime groups did in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition.

            Marijuana makes up 60 percent of the cartels’ profits, that still leaves another 40 percent, which includes the sale of methamphetamine, cocaine, and brown-powder and black-tar heroin.

            Cartels derive a growing slice of their income from other illegal activities. Some experts on organized crime in Latin America, like Edgardo Buscaglia, say that cartels earn just half their income from drugs.

            Indeed, in recent years cartels have used an extensive portfolio of rackets and scams to diversify their income.

            For example, they used to kidnap rivals, informants and incompetent subordinates to punish, exact revenge or send a message.

            Now that they have seen that people are willing to pay heavy ransoms, kidnapping has become their second-most-lucrative venture, with the targets ranging from businessmen to migrants.

            Another new source of cartel revenue is oil theft, long a problem for the Mexican government. The national oil company, Pemex, loses hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of petroleum every year to bandits and criminal gangs who tap into pipelines and siphon it off.

            Cartels are also moving into the market in pirated goods in Latin America. The market used to be dominated by terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

            Cartels are also moving into extortion. A cartel representative will approach the owner of a business — whether a pharmacy or a taco stand — demanding a monthly stipend for “protection.” If those payments aren’t made on time, the business is often burned to the ground, or the owner is threatened, kidnapped or killed.

            A popular cartel racket involves branded products. For example, a cartel member will tell a music-store owner that he has to sell CDs with the Zetas logo stamped on them, with the cartel taking a 25 percent cut of the profits. Noncompliance isn’t an option.”

          2. PeakTrader

            Continuation from the article above:

            “…crime in the city is at its lowest in years, even though Chicago is home to about 100,000 “die-hard gang members,” and gangs’ biggest source of money is drug trafficking, he said.

            In 1979, when the nation’s population totaled around 225 million, government surveys showed that 25.4 million were regular users of illegal drugs.

            In 2009, when the U.S. population was 305 million, data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed that 21.8 million people were using drugs illegally.”

  3. James

    Menzie, can you do the analysis where “diversity” is interpreted as “non-Asian minority population”.

  4. Erik Poole

    …. which is amazing given all the illegal weapons that Americans apparently dump into Canada. I would have said ‘sell’ instead of ‘dump’ but it sounded so much more dramatic.

    The illegal weapons trade into Canada. So unfair, so unfair. Putting all those Canadian illegal weapons suppliers out of business.

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you for providing an alternative view based on creating a “diversity” index based on (as best I can determine from the Excel spreadsheet) the proportion of minority groups to the majority group. Ethnicity is can of worms for explaining national phenomena. Are French and English ethnically diverse? Well, yes… wine versus ale. Do French and English immigrants have more in common than English and Malaysian immigrants? Do northern Europeans have more in common than with southwest Asia tribal societies? Perhaps. Especially in the area of political history (rule of law, democracies, former monarchies, etc.) and cultural similarities.

    Is the Census Bureau’s use of race be abandoned entirely? Should the FBI not be using race in any of its crime statistics? Perhaps. Perhaps the notions of “race” and “diversity” are simply red herrings in analyzing economic and social phenomena. Maybe the real measures should be nothing more than income quartiles and foreign versus native born.

    I now understand your antagonism toward “ironman” based on your previous articles. But in the case of Canada, what does this “diversity” actually mean in terms of social attitudes, crime, and national identity? Canada has always been unique because of it’s divide between the French and English, but the classification of “other Canadian” which is 43.5% of the total used by your preferred source is hardly revealing. Perhaps, in this case, the problem understanding “diversity” in Canada lies in the Canadian statistics rather than Ironman’s treatment of the data which attempts to make sense of a nonsense data point.

    Perhaps an alternative “ethnic” approach is to look at cultural background in terms of the tradition of violence:

    Or we could just agree to disagree.

    1. Bruce Hall

      Menzie, the comment above was from me, but somehow my name was not filled in on the form. My last statement, “Perhaps an alternative “ethnic” approach is to look at cultural background in terms of the tradition of violence:“, is intended to be taken as meaning that people coming from violent areas may be, not will be, more prone to see violence as just another alternative to lawful processes.

      It is interesting to see the relationship between income inequality and crime, but that might trigger some by the implication that poor people will be prone to murder because there are rich people. I would bet that homicides, even gang-related, are predominantly within socio-economic groups rather than between them. That would raise the question: if income disparity is a root cause, why are victims primarily within the same income group?

  6. Ed Hanson


    I was waiting for Bruce to respond but my time is up, here goes. I do not understand your response.

    Bruce described his problem as the statistics comparing apples and oranges. Is not the xls file you referenced just that. The Canadian measure from the Encyclopedia Brit. list ethnicity as different French, Other Canada, British, German, Italian, Ukrainian, and Dutch. About 96% of the population (depending on the breakdown of Other Canada)

    But the same file from the US Census would list each of these as white.

    What am I missing or is Bruce right on this point?

    eb 1991 Canada French 22.80 0.7124
    eb 1991 Canada Other Canada 43.50
    eb 1991 Canada British 20.80
    eb 1991 Canada German 3.40
    eb 1991 Canada Italian 2.80
    eb 1991 Canada Chinese 2.20
    eb 1991 Canada Amerindian 1.70 eb 1991 Canada Ukrainian 1.50
    eb 1991 Canada Dutch 1.30

    census 2000 United States White 69.132 0.4901
    census 2000 United States Hispanic 12.546
    census 2000 United States Black 12.063
    census 2000 United States Asian 3.597
    census 2000 United States Other race or two or more races 1.802
    census 2000 United States American Indians or Alaska Natives 0.735
    census 2000 United States Hawaiian and other Pacific 0.126


Comments are closed.