Ethnolinguistic diversity slows down urban growth

June 29, 2020

The growth of cities plays a key role in a region's economic development. Although many factors affecting urban development have been studied extensively, economic research has so far paid little attention to one such factor: ethnolinguistic diversity.

Studies in the area of conflict research have shown that the risk of conflict is increased when various ethnic groups live in close proximity. So far, however, the effect of this factor on urban development had not been examined directly. Professor Kurt Schmidheiny from the University of Basel has now provided the first empirical proof of this relationship in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Lausanne and the London School of Economics.

On the one hand, the researchers based their analysis on a type of world map showing where various language groups lived in 1975. This allowed them to ascertain the degree of ethnolinguistic diversity of 3,540 provinces in 170 countries at that time. On the other hand, they used a new dataset from the EU and OECD that combines satellite data with population data for the year 2015 in order to define cities around the world as contiguous settlement areas and assign population figures to them.

An incentive to remain in rural areas

The coupling of these two geographical datasets showed that, in more ethnically diverse provinces, a lower proportion of the total population lives in cities and the largest city in the province is smaller. In their analysis, the scientists controlled for alternative factors that influence the degree of urbanization, such as population density and topography.

The researchers also went a step further by examining the degree of urbanization already present in 1975. "By controlling for this, we are able to assume with greater certainty that ethnolinguistic diversity influenced urban growth and not vice versa," says Schmidheiny.

According to game theory models, conflicts between ethnolinguistic groups are more costly the more closely the groups live alongside one another. "There are therefore incentives for members of these groups to remain in rural areas. Our analysis confirms this empirically for the first time," says the economist.

Less impact in established democracies and dictatorships

However, Schmidheiny emphasizes that countering ethnic mixing in order to promote urban growth and therefore economic development would be the wrong conclusion to draw in terms of policy. "Diversity is a key driver of innovation in cities in which the various ethnic groups live and work peacefully alongside one another."

Empirical analysis has shown that the influence of ethnolinguistic diversity is less detrimental in mature democracies (and strict autocracies) than in fragile democracies.

"The effect is less pronounced in systems where various ethnic groups have well-established ways of resolving their conflicts and in those where conflicts are suppressed," says Schmidheiny. Fragile democracies are particularly susceptible. "Countries with a well-functioning democracy can take full advantage of the innovation-driving effect of diversity."

University of Basel

Related Diversity Articles from Brightsurf:

More plant diversity, less pesticides
Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands.

Insect diversity boosted by combination of crop diversity and semi-natural habitats
To enhance the number of beneficial insect species in agricultural land, preserving semi-natural habitats and promoting crop diversity are both needed, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied of Ecology.

Ethnolinguistic diversity slows down urban growth
Where various ethnic groups live together, cities grow at a slower rate.

Protecting scientific diversity
The COVID-19 pandemic means that scientists face great challenges because they have to reorient, interrupt or even cancel research and teaching.

Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.

Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota
The diversity of bacteria in the human gut is an important biomarker of health, influences multiple diseases, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases and affects various treatments.

Underestimated chemical diversity
An international team of researchers has conducted a global review of all registered industrial chemicals: some 350,000 different substances are produced and traded around the world -- well in excess of the 100,000 reached in previous estimates.

New world map of fish genetic diversity
An international research team from ETH Zurich and French universities has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time.

Biological diversity as a factor of production
Can the biodiversity of ecosystems be considered a factor of production?

Fungal diversity and its relationship to the future of forests
Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.

Read More: Diversity News and Diversity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to