What Is The Difference Between Culture And Ethnicity


Kidsinthehouse.com – Are there differences between culture, ethnicity and race?

The phrases culture, ethnicity, and race are often used interchangeably, and we believe they all imply the same thing, while in fact they are very separate concepts. Culture is something that we learn from other people in our lives. Generally speaking, it is via elders that we learn about our culture. There are people who are older than us and who are handing things down from one generation to the next. Nationality and ethnicity are intertwined concepts. It’s possible that I’m from where we came from.

All Asian, although of varying ethnic backgrounds.

And this is because race is not something that is genetically determined, despite the fact that we prefer to believe it is.

In our nation, we’ve utilized race to ensure that one group of people has more privilege and power than another group of people.

However, the fact is that race matters, and in homes where we are members of more than one race, or in families with children of color who have been members of targeted groups, we must learn to talk about it.

Take a look at Beth Hall’s video on Are there distinctions between cultures, ethnicities, and races?


Beth Hall is an adoption educator who co-founded Pact, An Adoption Alliance, a multicultural adoption organization dedicated to addressing critical issues affecting adopted children of color. Pact is a multicultural adoption organization dedicated to addressing critical issues affecting adopted children of color. Pact provides lifetime support and placement services to birth and adoptive families who have children of color who have been adopted. In addition to being a national speaker, she is also the author of numerous articles and a book, Inside Transracial Adoption, which is filled with personal stories, practical suggestions, and theoretical perspectives, and which conveys the message that race matters, racism is alive, and families formed through transracial adoption can develop strong and lasting ties.

  • John’s University presented her with the Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award, which she accepted.
  • Donaldson Institute for Adoption that promotes positive identity in transracially adopted children, as well as an Advisory Board Member for the On Your Feet Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting birth mothers of adopted children.
  • She is the white adoptive mother of two young adults: Sofia, who is Latina, and James, who is African American.
  • Barbara, Beth’s sister, was also adopted, thus she grew up as a part of an adoptive family.
  • Beth Hall continues to provide parenting videos.
  • Culture is something that we learn from other people in our lives.
  • There are people who are older than us and who are handing things down from one generation to the next.

It’s possible that I’m from where we came from.

All Asian, although of varying ethnic backgrounds.

And this is because race is not something that is genetically determined, despite the fact that we prefer to believe it is.

In our nation, we’ve utilized race to ensure that one group of people has more privilege and power than another group of people.

However, the fact is that race matters, and in homes where we are members of more than one race, or in families with children of color who have been members of targeted groups, we must learn to talk about it.

Alternatively, we will be unable to learn and assist youngsters in learning how to feel good about themselves and realize that they do not have to be victims of racism in order to succeed in life.

The difference between culture, ethnicity and race — Shoes Off – an Asian Australian Podcast

We sometimes use the phrases culture, ethnicity, and race interchangeably, and while there is some overlap between the categories, it is vital to understand the distinctions between them and to use them appropriately when referring to different people.


Think of these as acquired behaviors – such as your own thoughts, beliefs, values, and traditions – that you acquire as you get older and can choose to keep or discard as you become older. You may incorporate cultural features and inspirations from a variety of different locations, and in general, the decision is yours. “I’m Irish, and I can’t possibly go up to this house party empty handed.” “We don’t wait for our father to sit down before we begin eating any more,” said the family.


People with whom you share ancestry, language, and/or culture are referred to as “kin.” Whether you want to go micro or macro, the distinction is in the level of heritage you want to emphasize. For example, someone who is 5th generation Australian with roots from India may still feel themselves to be ethnically Indian while being born in Australia. In general, you do not pick this for yourself (although you may choose the specifics), but it is something that you as a collective give themselves and refer to yourselves by, for example, “I grew up in Laos, but I am of Chinese descent.” “My parents reared me here in Melbourne, but I’m Lebanese — my great-grandparents emigrated to Australia many years ago,” says the author.


This is mostly determined by your physical appearance and, to a lesser extent, your ethnicity. Race is typically used to categorize people into a few broad categories rather than trying to fit everyone into a few narrow ones. Although the specific ethnic groupings varies from one location to another (for example, “Asian” in Australia means something different from “Asian” in the United Kingdom), they are nevertheless broad categories. In general, race is a differentiation that has been imposed on you and that you are unable to change.

In addition, “I hang out with a lot of Asians.” “I’m biologically Asian, ethnically Han Chinese, but I grew up in Australia to Malaysian Chinese parents, so I have cultural components from their home country, Australia, and China,” says the author, as an example of all three.

So why are these distinctions important?

Race and ethnicity are frequently linked in society. Especially for minorities, it is common for them to be racialised before they can come to fully identify with their ethnic heritage. In this situation, it’s common for people to identify more with their race than with their ethnicity. For example, African Americans came from a number of nations, but they are racialized as “black” in the United States, and as a result, their race frequently becomes more important to them than their ethnicity.

  1. Because race is more commonly classified based on looks, a person might appear to be of a particular race but have a culture that is vastly different from their ancestors’.
  2. Furthermore, you are not permitted to attribute to a racial group any non-physical attributes or characteristics.
  3. You can have characteristics from numerous cultures but only belonging to one ethnic group.
  4. Example: A Caucasian German who grew up in Denmark may display several strong Danish cultural qualities while also expressing some German cultural traits, depending on the circumstances.
  5. After making the distinction between what distinguishes race from culture and ethnicity, it becomes clear that racism, in addition to being unpleasant, just does not make logic.

There may be some merit in categorizing individuals into racial categories, but at the end of the day, we have far more in common with one another than we do with those who are unlike us.


Ethnicity and culture are both fascinating issues in the field of sociology. These two characteristics are prevalent in practically all communities around the world. In general, the main distinction between ethnicity and culture is that ethnicity is the categorization of people into groups based on their ancestry, culture, or other special characteristics of the society into which he or she was born, whereas culture is the categorization of people into groups based on their culture. Cultural values, on the other hand, are defined as social phenomena that explain the distinctive qualities of a given civilization.

These are not fixed societal standards that must be adhered to.

What is Ethnicity

People are identified by their shared ancestry, social and cultural identity, race, language, homeland, or other characteristics that are unique to them. Ethnicity is defined by factors such as religion, physical appearance, a manner of clothing, dietary trends, and other characteristics. Ethnic groups can range in size from thousands of members to as few as five or six individuals. The Han Chinese are often regarded as the most populous ethnic group in the modern world. Further, an ethnic group can be subdivided into clans or tribes, which are subdivided further yet.

“Ethnogenesis” is the term used to describe this process.

They include ethno-racial groupings, ethno-religious groups, ethno-national groups, ethno-linguistic groups, and ethno-linguistic subgroups, among others.

What isCulture

Culture is a social phenomenon that reveals the characteristics of a particular society in which it exists. Most members of a specific society share these cultural traits because they are ingrained in their habits and values, as well as through art, music, beliefs, and knowledge, among other things. Culture is not something that is inherited from one’s parents; it is something that is acquired through social interaction. An infant acquires cultural traits by observing the parents’ or other adults’ behavior.

  • Over time, all of the members of a particular society contribute to the evolution of the society’s culture.
  • For example, the lifestyle during the ancient kings’ era, is totally different from the modern era.
  • Though art, music, cuisine, clothes, etc.
  • Culture shapes the behavior of individual members in a particular society, and it is the culture which brings diverse people together to form one unique community.

An individual can also shift from one culture to another as his/her will. When people travel, they invariably acquire different cultural traits of different communities.

Difference Between Ethnicity and Culture

Ethnicity is a classification of a person based on his or her common ancestry, social and cultural identity, language, race, origin, and other characteristics that are shared by a group of people. Culture may be defined as a depiction of the distinctive traits of a certain civilization.


It is possible to determine a person’s ethnic origin based on their physical appearance, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions. We are unable to determine a person’s culture simply on their physical appearance. The majority of cultural representations are found in tangible objects.

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Ethnicity is a biological trait that is passed down via families. Culture is anything that is acquired via social interaction.


Ethnic mobility is achievable if both ethnic groups are accepting of the other’s existence. Culture is extremely dynamic, and anyone may pick up on the cultural qualities of others.

Ethnicity vs. Culture – What’s the difference?

Ethnicity is a word that refers to the qualities shared by a group of people, particularly in terms of genealogy, culture, language, and national experiences. The arts, practices, lifestyles, background, and habits that distinguish a specific civilization or nation are referred to as its culture. Ethnicity noun A collection of people belonging to a certain ethnicity. Culture nounthe set of ideas, values, behaviors, and material items that define a people’s way of lifeEthnicity nounthe group of individuals that belong to a certain ethnic group Race; shared ancestry.

“ethnicity has a big impact on community status relations”; “ethnicity has a strong influence on community status relations”; “ethnicity has a substantial influence on community status relations” Noun(botany) cultivation of a culture Culture is a word that refers to the process of cultivating a bacterial or other biological entity in an artificial medium in microbiology.

  1. In cartography, the details on a map that do not represent natural elements of the region depicted, such as names and symbols for towns, highways, meridian lines, and parallels, are referred as as culture noun(cartography).
  2. nurture verb(transitive) to increase interest in something by cultivating it.
  3. Noun A culture is defined as the act of educating, disciplining, or refining the moral and intellectual nature of a person, as well as any work or methods engaged in this process; as, the culture of the mind.
  4. Civilization is characterized by refinement in manners and taste.
  5. Culture is a term that refers to a way of life.
  6. Culture noun Those aspects of a map that do not represent natural elements of the region outlined, such as the names and symbols for towns, roads, buildings, bridges, meridians, and parallels, and which are used collectively as a whole.

A particular society at a certain time and location; “early Mayan civilization”;Culture nounthe tastes in art and manners that are preferred by a social group; “early Mayan civilization”;Culture nounthe tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group; “early Mayan civilization”;Culture noun Culture nounall of the information and values that a civilization has in common Culture noun(biology) the process of cultivating microorganisms in a nutritional medium (such as gelatin or agar); “the growth of cells in a Petri dish”; “the culture of bacteria in a petri dish” Noun (bacteriology) the product of growing microorganisms on nutrient media.

Culture nouna a highly developed state of perfection; possessing a flawless or impeccable quality; “they performed with great polish”; “I admired the exquisite refinement of his prose”; “almost an inspiration”; “almost art”; “almost perfection”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost art”; “almost A culture is defined as the attitudes and behaviors that are distinctive of a certain social group or organization; for example, “the emerging drug culture”; “the FBI culture”; “the reason that the agency is destined to inactivity has something to do with the FBI culture.” “the culture of oysters” is a term that refers to the cultivation of plants or animals.

Culture ‘Culture’ () is an umbrella word that refers to the social behavior and norms that exist in human societies as well as the information and beliefs held by individuals who belong to these groups, as well as the arts, laws, conventions, talents, and habits of those who belong to these communities.

A cultural norm codifies acceptable behavior in a society; it serves as a guideline for behavior, dress, language, and demeanor in a situation, and it serves as a template for expectations in a social group; it codifies acceptable behavior in a society; and it serves as a template for expectations in a social group.

What’s the difference between race and ethnicity?

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.) What would you say if someone asked you to explain yourself to them? Where would you begin? Do you think it would come down to your skin tone or your nationality? For example, what is your native language, what religion you practice, what cultural customs you follow, or what lineage your family comes from? This perplexing topic frequently prompts people to divide their identities into two categories: race and ethnicity, respectively. The question is, what exactly do these two phrases signify, and what exactly is the distinction between race and ethnicity in the first place?

According to Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist and palaeobiologist at The Pennsylvania State University who is well-known for her study on the development of human skin color, “‘Race’ and ‘ethnicity’ have been and continue to be employed as means to define human variability.” “The majority of individuals believe that race is a combination of physical, behavioral, and cultural characteristics.

To put it another way, race is frequently seen as something that is inherent in our DNA and so passed down through generations.

In the meanwhile, though, we’re going to demolish the fundamental foundations on which these definitions are based as soon as we’ve laid out their shape.

The basis of “races”

The concept of “race” began with anthropologists and philosophers in the 18th century, who classified humans into separate racial groups based on geographical location and physical characteristics such as skin color. This not only contributed to the development of the notion of distinct racial “types,” but it also fed the assumption that these disparities were based on biological differences. Through the slave trade and colonialism, this faulty notion paved the way for the assumption that some races were superior to others, resulting in worldwide power disparities in favor of white Europeans over other populations.

Because capitalism, as well as the accumulation of wealth, was the driving force behind the triangular trade, “Medical anthropologist Jayne O.

Furthermore, she serves as the associate director of engagement for the Center on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT), which is located at Duke University.

The ramifications of this history may still be seen today — even in contemporary conceptions of race, where there is still an underlying belief that characteristics such as skin color or hair texture have biological, genetic origins that are entirely distinct to various racial groupings.

In an interview with Live Science, Jablonski explained that when you take a group of 1,000 people from the many recognized “races” of contemporary humanity, “you will see a lot of variance within each group.” However, as she observed, “The amount of genetic variety found within each of these groups is more than the average variance seen between any two groups of the same species.

  • This means that when you compare the genomes of individuals from various regions of the world, you will find that there are no genetic variations that exist in all members of one racial group but not in members of the opposite group.
  • Euro-Americans and Asians, for example, have almost identical sets of genetic variants.
  • This is demonstrated by Jablonski’s own research on skin tone.
  • In other words, it would be a complete waste of time.” What she means is that skin color — which developed over a spectrum — involves so much variety among different skin color “groupings” that it is essentially useless as a tool for categorizing people into separate racial classifications.
  • Importantly, they are values that humans have decided to associate with one another or with themselves, not vice versa.
  • For the most part, differences in human appearance do not correspond to genetic differences.

“Naturalists and philosophers of the 18th century were responsible for the creation of races. They are not naturally occurring groupings, but rather artificially created ones “Jablonski drew attention to this.

Where ethnicity comes in

This also draws attention to the significant distinction between race and ethnicity: While race is assigned to individuals based on their physical characteristics, ethnicity is more typically selected by the individual themselves. Furthermore, because it incorporates everything from language to ethnicity, culture, and religion, it can allow people to assume a variety of different identities at once. Someone could choose to identify as Asian American, British Somali, or Ashkenazi Jew, for example, based on diverse components of their ascribed racial identity, culture, lineage, and religion, as well as their racial and ethnic background.

  1. However, Ifekwunigwe points out that ethnicity may be a benefit for people who feel like they are trapped in one racial group or another because it provides a sense of agency, which is important for people who feel isolated.
  2. What happened during the Holocaust is a related question.
  3. “If you’re in a minority position, you’re much more likely to be racialized before you’re given access to your ethnic identity,” Ifekwunigwe explained.
  4. ” “Race is constantly lurking in the background,” she remarked, even when one chooses a certain ethnicity.
  5. However, in practice, things aren’t quite so straightforward.
  6. According to Ifekwunigwe, these constructions carry “immensity of influence in terms of how societies function.” Individuals are defined primarily by their race, and this is deeply engrained in the way societies are organized, how they work, and how they comprehend their residents.
  7. Aside from this, the legacy of racial classifications has affected society in ways that have resulted in dramatically diverse socioeconomic realities for people belonging to different ethnic groups.
  8. Furthermore, some people continue to use race as a justification for discriminating against other groups that they consider to be “inferior,” notwithstanding recent progress.
  9. “Understanding that race is a social construction is only the beginning of the journey.
  10. One physical example of health inequality may be found in the United States, where statistics reveals that African American women are more than twice as likely as white women to die after delivery than white women.
  11. In minority communities, a sense of racial identity may instill feelings of pride, mutual support, and increased awareness.

According to the website of the United States Census Bureau, obtaining statistics regarding people’s self-reported race is “important in making policy choices, particularly in the area of civil rights.” Taking all of this into consideration, we can wonder how we should perceive the concepts of race and ethnicity: Should we cherish them, abhor them, or be completely apathetic to them?

A single fact remains undeniable: while both are promoted as tools for understanding humanity’s variety, in reality they are used to divide people and aren’t based on scientific realities.

In fact, science has demonstrated to us that, across all of the categories that we humans have created for ourselves, we have more in common than we do not. Instead of focusing on our “differences,” the true challenge in the future will be to recognize each other for who we truly are.

  • What changes have occurred in humanity during the past 100 years
  • Why Rachel Dolezal can’t choose to be black, according to the science of race
  • What is the reason that not all primates have developed into humans?

The original version of this article appeared on Live Science.

Lesson plan – culture, race & ethnicity

Reading, documenting, and reassessing topics are all important steps in understanding them. In this lesson, students are introduced to these concepts and learn how they differ from one another before applying them to their own lives and experiences.


In order to assist pupils in distinguishing between the ideas of culture, race, and ethnicity.


  • The definitions and question papers for pupils
  • Butcher’s paper and felt pens
  • And other materials.
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What to do

  1. Division of the class into three groups with each group being assigned one of the ideas prior to distribution of the sheets Students should brainstorm words and phrases that are linked with their notion and write them down on butchers’ paper. Instruct a representative from each group to give a presentation to the entire class
  2. Distribute the definitions sheet and have the students work through the definitions together. Examine each of the brainstorming papers in terms of the definitions provided above
  3. Distribute the questions sheet and ask students to complete them and compare their answers with their peers.

Culture, RaceEthnicity definitions

These notions are difficult to grasp and are frequently confused with one another or taken to signify the same thing – when they do not. There are numerous various definitions for these terms, and the following are some examples:


Culture is not about superficial group distinctions or simply a means to categorize a collection of people; it is far more complex than that.

  • It is a conceptual construct
  • It is not concrete. It is a varied, dynamic, and ever-changing environment. When individuals behave in a specific manner, it is because of a shared system of taught and shared values, beliefs, and standards of conduct. That which is perceived, believed, evaluated, and acted upon is the gold standard. The majority of people are not well-versed in their own culture.


Using the word ‘race’ to refer to groupings of people belonging to different national, religious, geographic, linguistic, or ethnic backgrounds is inappropriate. Intelligence, personality, and character are not related to race.

  • Race is a word that is attributed to people only on the basis of their physical appearance. Many people believe that it is mostly a social construct
  • Others disagree. Because there are so many variances, such as skin color, it is impossible to state that a person belongs to a single race. Each and every human tribe is a member of the same species (Homosapiens)


Ethnicity is a sense of belonging that occurs when individuals feel connected to one another because they have something in common. It occurs when two people have similar interests, such as:

  • Physical characteristics such as skin color or bloodline
  • Linguistic characteristics such as language or dialect
  • Behavioural or cultural characteristics such as religion or customs
  • Or environmental characteristics such as living in the same area or coming from the same place of origin are all examples of identifying characteristics.

Culture, RaceEthnicity questions

  1. What role does culture have in determining who a person is
  2. Do you know what your culture is like
  3. Is it the same as your ethnicity? What is a frequent misconception regarding race, and how is it wrong, and how can it be corrected
  4. Identify some preconceptions about a certain group of individuals that you are familiar with
  5. Make a list of some of your core values, beliefs, and traditions (three of each)
  6. What are some of the aspects of your culture that you are most proud of
  7. And Tell me about any aspects of your culture that you don’t particularly care for. What would you say about the culture of Australia? What are some of the cultural concerns that are now prevalent in Australia

People’s cultural legacy includes more than only the things that can be seen, such as their cuisine, dress, festivities, religion, and language. It also includes their mental and emotional well-being. These aspects of your life determine how you live and whether or not you are accepted by society. Fill up the blanks with facts about your own culture in the table below. Take a look at your information and compare it to your peers.

Cultural feature What is acceptable What is not acceptable
Non-verbal communication
People’s names

Based on the ‘CultureColour’ project, which was funded by Living in Harmony and carried out by the Northern Beaches Neighbourhood Service in New South Wales in 2005.

Difference between Ethnicity and Culture

Ethnicity and culture are intertwined and interdependent. Nonetheless, what exactly do they signify? Which of these terms is essentially a synonym for the other, or do they indicate fundamentally distinct aspects of the social order? Let us first identify the words ethnicity and culture as they are now being employed in popular discourse, and then we will discuss the meaning of these terms in their current usage. Ethnicity, according to Wikipedia, is “a socially defined category of people who identify with one another based on a similar social experience or lineage.” Ethnicity is also referred to as ethnic group in some circles.

  1. Some ethnic groupings may be distinguished by little more than a common name among themselves.
  2. The link that forms between them is a result of their shared historical and social experiences.
  3. Unlike one another, each ethnic group has its own own characteristics.
  4. They may or may not speak in a different language, have a distinct dialect, or have different accents.
  5. What may be acceptable in one ethnic group may be forbidden or frowned upon in another, and vice versa.
  6. The word culture is derived from the Latin word cultura, which literally translates as “cultivation.” In Europe, the term “culture” was first employed in the 18th or 19th centuries to refer to a process of cultivation or enhancement of a product.
  7. It was only in the twentieth century that it became a significant notion in anthropology, characterizing human-related phenomena that could not be attributed to genetic inheritance.

It is a characteristic that is applied to members of groups. Culture is always conveyed by society, not by an individual, and this is true in all cultures. A comparison between ethnicity and culture is shown.

  • Pertaining to or characteristic of a human group that has certain racial, religious, linguistic, and other characteristics in common with other human groups
  • Concerning the division of humans into groups, particularly on the basis of racial features
  • This term refers to the entirety of socially transmitted behavior patterns, artistic creations, religious convictions, social structures, and all other products of human labor and thinking. They are regarded to be the expression of an era, class, community, or people via their patterns, features, and goods.
Derived from Greek word ‘ethnos’ Latin word ‘cultura’
Meaning Heathen and pagan Cultivation
Concept Ethnicity is also a real concept that relates to identities like caste, language, religion, etc. Culture is more real concept to beliefs, arts, etc.
Shared Living in the same area or sharing the same place of origin. It shares values, beliefs and rules of conduct that make people behave in a certain way.
Cultural imposition and Ethnocentrism The belief that one’s own ideas, beliefs and practices are the best and superior. The tendency for health personnel to impose their beliefs practices and values of other cultures, because they believe that their ideas are superior.

Photographs used with permission from sciencedaily.com and socialstudies.pppst.com.

Distinctions between Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Culture – Atlas of Public Management

. a resource page for Atlas under the Government and InstitutionsandAtlas100 sections.


TheyDiffer.com (see the citation below) summarizes the differences across races, ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures as follows: There are distinctions amongst them, even though they all pertain to the separation between one group and another. ” Race refers to a group of individuals that have physical traits that are both similar and diverse from one another. such as skin color or hair type. In other words, “race” refers to a human population that is unique from other human groups in some way because of their physical distinctions, whether imagined or real.

To be considered a part of an ethnic group, one must have a shared cultural heritage, genealogy, history, country, language/dialect, mythology, ritual, food, art, religion, and physical appearance with others of the same race or ethnicity.” Nationality relates to the nation of origin, which means it refers to the place where a person was born and where he or she now retains citizenship.

An expression that sounds a little like ethnicity, but which is frequently reserved for referring to the symbolic markers that ethnic groups employ to separate themselves visibly from one another.”

Comparison chart from TheyDiffer.com

Refers to identification of people into groups based on various sets of physical characteristics Refers to people who identify themselves based on common ancestral, cultural, national, and social experience Refers to the country of citizenship Refers to the beliefs, values, norms and practices that are learnt and shared generation by generation
Caucasian (Aryans, Hamites, Semites), Mongolian (Northern Mongolian, Japanese and Korean, Tibetan, Malayan), and Negroid (African, Melanesians, Australian Aborigine) Pashtun, Bengali, English, Scottish, American Indian, Welsh etc. Americans, Germans, Russians, Nigerians, British, Greeks etc. African, American, Austrian, Asian, Russian etc.
Khan Academy video

TheyDiffer.com gives the following link to a 6-minute film about race and ethnicity produced by the Khan Academy. Topic, subject, and course for the Atlas Governing and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions both cover the issue of diversity, identity, and rights (the fundamental topic).


TheyDiffer.com (2016), Differences in Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Culture, accessed on the 18th of December, at at, accessible on December 25, 2016, Khan Academy (2014), Demographic basis of society – race and ethnicity, retrieved on December 25, 2016. Ian Clark developed this page, which was last updated on February 5, 2017. Dauntless Jaunter, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Accessed on the 25th of December 2016 by searching for Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Heritage, and Culture at

What’s the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity?

In order to identify various portions of the population, people are classified according to their race and ethnicity. In its most basic definition, race relates to physical characteristics, whereas ethnicity pertains to cultural identification. Race may also be defined as something that is inherited, whereas ethnicity is something that is acquired through experience.

This page discusses the variations between race and ethnicity, as well as the many classifications used by the United States Census Bureau to identify different groups of people.

Race vs. Ethnicity

Racial and ethnic identity are frequently misinterpreted since the majority of individuals do not fit neatly into the categories that are presented on forms with checkboxes. People have the ability to self-identify, thus we don’t necessarily need tests or scientific evidence to distinguish them from others. Race

  • Narrow
  • Based on physical and biological characteristics that are comparable
  • Broad
  • Based on cultural expression and location of birth
  • A broad definition


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, race is defined as “a category of humanity that shares some distinguishing physical characteristics.” Race is typically related with biology and tied to physical features such as hair texture or skin color, and it encompasses a rather small range of alternatives in terms of classification. People with identical complexions and hair textures can, however, be classified as belonging to distinct races, and racial classifications in the United States have evolved through time.

The same could be said for any member of any race in this situation.

  • The following races are represented: white, black, or African American, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

It is possible that you will be prompted to choose only one category in some situations. At other times, you may be asked to check all of the categories that apply to you in order to proceed.


Ethnicity is a more general concept than race. People are classified into groups based on their cultural expression and identification, and this phrase is used to categorize them. When describing someone’s ethnicity, commonalities such as racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin might be used to characterize them. For example, while someone’s race may be described as “Black,” their ethnicity may be described as Italian, or someone’s race may be described as “White,” but their ethnicity is Irish.

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The United States Census Bureau

Some people are puzzled as to why they are asked about their race and ethnicity while filling out medical documents or employment applications. As stated on the website of the United States Census Bureau, they inquire about race and ethnicity since they are gathering information regarding civil rights.

Race Data

The funding of government programs that provide services to certain communities is influenced by statistics on race and ethnicity. They also gather data on race because they want to ensure that policies are designed to meet the needs of people of all races. It is also their goal to ensure that anti-discrimination laws and regulations are being followed. Their data on race is derived from self-reporting by the participants. It is said that their classifications “do not represent an attempt to define race in terms of biology, anthropology, or genetics.” They also make it explicit that respondents can mark more than one race on the questionnaire in order to identify their racial blend, which they encourage them to do.

Some of the phrases that were previously used have been deemed objectionable and have been deleted from the documentation.

People were asked about their “race” and “origin” at one point, but this proved to be too confusing for them. According to the United States Census Bureau, the following guidance can assist people in selecting the category that best represents them:


According to Wikipedia, “the category ‘White’ encompasses all those who identify as belonging to one or more ethnicities or ethnic groups that originated in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” German, Italian, Lebanese, Cajun, Chaldean, Slavic, Iranian, French, Polish, Egyptian, Irish, and English are just a few of the ethnic groups represented in this study.

Black or African American

“The designation ‘Black or African American’ encompasses any those who identify with one or more countries or ethnic groups that have their origins in any of the Black racial groupings of Africa,” according to the National Association of Black Journalists. African Americans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, and Somalis are just a few examples of people who belong to these groupings. This group includes people who identify as Ghanaian, South African, Barbadian, Kenyan, Liberian, and Bahamian, among other nationalities.

American Indian or Alaska Native

As defined by the Bureau of the Census, “American Indian or Alaska Native” refers to “any individuals who identify with one or more of the indigenous peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal connection or community attachment.” The following are examples of groups that fall under this category:

  • The Navajo Nation, the Blackfeet Tribe, the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government, and the Nome Eskimo Community are all represented.


“All persons who identify with one or more countries or ethnic groups originating in the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent are included in the term ‘Asian.'” Each of the following Asian identities is represented with a checkbox on the Asian identity form:

  • Asian Indian
  • Asian Chinese
  • Asian Filipino
  • Asian Korean
  • Asian Japanese
  • Asian other (e.g., Pakistani, Cambodian, and Hmong)
  • Asian other

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander

All persons who identify with one or more countries or ethnic groups originating in Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and other Pacific Islands are included in the category of “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” according to the CDC. For persons who identify as one or more of the following Pacific Islander groups, there are separate Pacific Islander checkboxes:

  • Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Chamorros, and other Pacific Islanders (e.g., Tongans, Fijians, and Marshallese) are included in this category.

Some Other Race

Choose the “Some Other Race” option and fill in the information about how you identify yourself if you do not identify with any of the previously mentioned categories.

Ethnicity Data

The U.S. Census Bureau asks if you are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish heritage, and you must respond affirmatively. In addition, they acknowledge that persons who identify themselves as belonging to this group may be of any race or ethnicity. These categories apply to persons who identify with any of the ethnic groups originating in the following countries: Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish.

  • The United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other Spanish-speaking civilizations (such as those of Salvador and Dominican origin
  • Spaniards
  • Colombians
  • Guatemalans
  • Ecuadorians
  • Peruvians
  • Venezuelans
  • Hondurans)

The option “Not of Hispanic, Spanish, or Latino origin” would be selected if you did not identify with any of these groups.

Problems With Categorization

In the opinion of some scholars, race is a cultural intervention that reflects specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations as a result of Western European conquests in the 15th century. Throughout history, the concept of “race” has been used to divide members of society, and it is frequently based on superficial physical characteristics such as skin color. According to recent research, people who have similar physical characteristics are not as genetically similar as some people believe.

As a result of increased solar exposure, darker skin tones have developed. Consequently, grouping people based on their skin color only indicates that their ancestors received similar amounts of sunlight—and they may actually have very little in common genetically as a result of this practice.

People Don’t Always Fit Into Categories

People may not always fall into neatly defined categories, despite the fact that organizations may wish to collect data on a population’s race and ethnicity. A large number of people identify with a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is possible that they were reared by parents from completely different social groupings. Furthermore, they may not want to choose which group they want to be a part of. Instead, individuals may identify as belonging to a number of different organizations, or they may believe that they are a part of a smaller group that isn’t included on the papers as a possible choice (which is when the fill-in-the-blank type questions might be helpful).

We Are More Alike Than We Are Different

It has been determined that our DNA is 99.9 percent identical, and that variances between persons are accounted for by changes in less than 1 percent of our DNA. As a result, while acknowledging and appreciating one another’s distinctions, we should also remember that we are all members of the same human family.

A Word From Verywell

The problems surrounding what constitutes a person’s race and what constitutes an individual’s ethnicity are not always straightforward. The reason for this is that forms are continually changing, just as our perception of race and ethnicity is changing. It is inevitable that the language we use, the classifications we give, and our assumptions about our genetic make-up will evolve through time. However, for the time being, government forms are likely to continue to include questions regarding race and ethnicity, despite the fact that not everyone will agree with the questions or the response alternatives.

Cultural and Ethnic Differences



Recognition of culture and its components as a dynamic and fluid process rather than a static construct is crucial to attempts to understand cultural impacts on health and health behavior; culture cannot be reduced to a single variable or construct, as is commonly assumed. In order to comprehend a culture, twelve characteristics must be considered: history, social status, points of interaction within and between social groups, value orientations, verbal and nonverbal language and communication, family life processes, healing beliefs and practices, religion and religious practices, art and other forms of expression, dietary preferences and practices, recreational forms, as well as the manner and style of clothing (Hogan-Garcia,2003).

Beliefs, values, and explanatory cognitive frameworks are examples of subjective components of culture that are transmitted both vocally and nonverbally; laws governing individual and group conduct are examples of an objective component of culture (Hogan-Garcia,2003).

References and Readings

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The Springer Science+Business Media publishing house in New York published this article in 2013.

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