Race vs Ethnicity: Difference and Comparison

The terms race and ethnicity are used to define or refer to a certain stereotypical category of people on the basis of different biological and social factors, respectively.

Key Takeaways

  1. Race is a social construct that groups individuals based on physical characteristics, while ethnicity is a grouping based on shared cultural traits, such as language, religion, and customs.
  2. The concept of race is more rigid and has historically been used to justify inequalities, whereas ethnicity allows for a more nuanced understanding of identity and cultural diversity.
  3. An individual can identify with multiple ethnicities but is classified under a single racial category, demonstrating the fluidity of ethnicity compared to race.

Race vs Ethnicity

Race is a categorization based on biological traits, such as skin color and facial features. The concept of race has been criticized as a social construct rather than a biological category. Ethnicity refers to a group of people who share common cultural, linguistic, or religious characteristics.

Race vs Ethnicity

Race is a term used to divide a community or population of people who have a common type of physical characteristics like complexion, eye color, skin texture, hair, and more such factors like that.

Ethnicity is a term used to divide a community or section of the population who share a common type of social factors like nationality, culture, language, and more such factors like that.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonRaceEthnicity
DefinitionRace means dividing people into groups on basis of physical traits.Ethnicity refers to a certain community in which members have common nationality or culture.
GenealogyDivided because of shared genealogy due to geographical isolation.Defined in terms of shared genealogy, can be presumed or actual.
ConceptRace is a narrow term.Ethnicity is a broader term.
OriginDerived from the Italian word razza.Derived from the word ethnic.
Year of originEmerged around the year 1490-1500.Emerged around the year 1765-1775.

What is Race?

The term race, as discussed above, refers to the concept of segregating a section of the population on the basis of various physical characteristics like complexion, eye color, skin texture, and more such traits.

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The concept of race originated from various anthropologists and philosophers in the 18th century who used to divide people into groups on the factors of physical traits.

The main factor in dividing people into different races is based on their complexion, which is known as “white,” “black,” and “brown.”

Talking about the brown racial group is another race divided on the basis of skin tone and those whose origin is Indian.

race

What is Ethnicity?

The term ethnicity, as discussed above, refers to the concept of segregating a section of the population on the basis of various sociological aspects like nationality, cultural habits, origin, religion, and more such factors.

For example, if a person’s race is black, their ethnicity can be American, or if a person is white, then their ethnicity may be Irish.

Then there is religion-based segregation, such as Jewish, Irish, and many more. Within a particular ethnicity, there may exist many subgroups also, which can be a mix of two types or any other deriving community.

During the last decades of the 20th century, the legal system and the official ideology of many countries, along with the U.S., prohibited ethnicity-based discrimination and enforced the equality law. 

ethnicity

Main Differences Between Race and Ethnicity

  1. The term race in English was borrowed from the French word race, which itself was derived from the Italian word “razza,” whose meaning is “kind, breed, lineage,” whereas the word ethnicity was derived from the word ethnic.
  2. The term race first emerged around the year 1490-1500, and on the other hand, the term ethnicity emerged around the year 1765-1775.
Difference Between Race and Ethnicity
References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395901004080
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/race-ethnicity-and-political-resources-participation-in-the-united-states/4C2E6F85CB23F61225E6FFC98C88C816
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-7717.00111
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Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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26 thoughts on “Race vs Ethnicity: Difference and Comparison”

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  10. The concept of race and ethnicity, as social constructs, is thoroughly elaborated upon in the article. The differences and common characteristics between these two terms are well-defined. It is interesting to note that while ethnicity is based on shared cultural traits, race is more rigid and has been historically misused to justify inequalities.

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