Distinctions between Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Culture

… an Atlas resource page in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


TheyDiffer.com (reference below) describes the distinctions between race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture:

“While all of these refer to the distinction of one community from another, they do have differences.

Race refers to a group of people who possess similar and distinct physical characteristics … such as skin color or hair type. In other words, race constitutes a human population that is distinct in a way from other human groups based on their physical differences, imagined or not.”

Ethnicity or ethnic group refers to a category of people who regard themselves to be different from other groups based on common ancestral, cultural, national, and social experience. … One must share a common cultural heritage, ancestry, history, homeland, language/dialect, mythology, ritual, cuisine, art, religion, and physical appearance to be considered as a member of an ethnic group.

Nationality pertains to the country of citizenship meaning it generally refers to where a person was born and holds citizenship. It is the legal relationship between a person and a sovereign state.

Culture is the way of life that consists of the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people. It generally means the non-biological or social aspects of human life which is basically anything that humans learn in a society. A bit similar to ethnicity, but is often used to refer specifically to the symbolic markers used by ethnic groups to distinguish themselves visibly from each other.”

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 provides the following link to a Khan Academy 6-minute video on race and ethnicity.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


TheyDiffer.com (2016), Difference between Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, and Culture, at http://theydiffer.com/difference-between-race-ethnicity-nationality-and-culture/, accessed 18 December 2016.

Khan Academy (2014), Demographic structure of society – race and ethnicity, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WIiConeatM, accessed 25 December 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 5 February 2017.

Image: Dauntless Jaunter, Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Heritage, and Culture, at https://www.dauntlessjaunter.com/2012/03/26/ethnicity-nationality-race-heritage-culture/, accessed 25 December 2016.