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Ethnicity vs. Race vs. Nationality: What Are the Variations? Specific Instances

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Younger Japanese-American ladies gown in kimonos throughout the 2017 Nisei Week Competition closing ceremony in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. It is a excellent instance of how we are able to show our ethnic group by way of dressing. Package Leong/Shutterstock

These three phrases could cause a whole lot of confusion. Listed here are the important thing variations:


In contrast to race and ethnicity, nationality is perhaps the simplest to outline — type of. “Nationality refers back to the standing of belonging to a selected nation, whether or not by beginning or naturalization,” in keeping with IGI International. “It constitutes a authorized relationship between a person individual and a state… An individual’s nationality is the place they’re a authorized citizen, normally within the nation the place they had been born.”

In accordance with that definition, your nationality can change by way of naturalized citizenship. For instance, an individual born in Costa Rica can acquire U.S. citizenship and turn into an American citizen.

Because the UK’s Workplace for Nationwide Statistics explains, “An individual can acquire new citizenship (an individual’s formal membership of a state) and maintain a number of passports reflecting completely different nationalities. Nationality displays a person’s option to turn into a citizen, in addition to their skill and eligibility to take action.”

Individuals of the identical nationality may additionally share cultural practices and social customs, even when they belong to completely different races or ethnic classes.

For instance, take two individuals born in america, considered one of Mexican descent and considered one of Center Jap background. They could not share the identical facial options, hair shade or cultural heritage, however rising up and dwelling within the U.S. has formed each their experiences, in order that they rejoice holidays equally or use smiling to precise themselves in a nonverbal means.

And simply so as to add somewhat extra confusion, Merriam-Webster additionally defines nationality as “an ethnic group constituting one component of a bigger unit (comparable to a nation).”


Cornell and Hartmann outline ethnicity this manner:

“A way of widespread ancestry based mostly on cultural attachments, previous linguistic heritage, non secular affiliations, claimed kinship, or some bodily traits.”

Examples of ethnicity embrace being Indian, Jewish or Asian, no matter race. Garments can play a giant half, too. A Scottish-American man sporting a plaid or tartan kilt, an Indian American girl sporting a sari, and a Japanese-American girl sporting a kimono are all examples of an individual’s ethnicity being expressed by way of wardrobe.

Race vs. Ethnicity

The distinction between race and ethnicity then? Whereas bodily traits largely decide an individual’s race, an individual’s tradition, language, household and place of birth decide ethnicity. (Nationalities are generally within the combine.)

Typically talking, individuals outline each race and ethnicity as social constructs. Neither is biologically legitimate. Apparently, Cornell and Hartmann say that individuals are extra prone to self-identify as combined ethnicity than combined race, although clearly, some take into account themselves a couple of race.

It is essential to notice two different factors the sociologists make about race and ethnicity.

Race, in contrast to ethnicity, remains to be largely a time period that different teams assign to an individual (which frequently results in one claiming superiority over the opposite). And racial id is inherent. In different phrases, you are born as a sure race, and it is typically not one thing you possibly can change simply by saying so. Keep in mind Rachel Dolezal?

That stated, all these are observations, not guidelines. The principles, as we have stated, are a tad murky.

“Individuals have this type of loopy concept concerning the purity of races … there is no method to actually isolate a race. And at this time, much more so, with intermarriage, with globalization,” Hartmann says, “these classes that we regularly assume are so agency — Individuals are so satisfied there’s 5 primary races as a result of we have acted like there are in our census and all the pieces else. They get blurred and combined up they usually do not make sense anymore.”

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