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Divergent Patterns in the Ethnic Transformation of Societies

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The uneven timing of the demographic transition in different countries of the world will lead to divergence between countries in ethnic and religious homogeneity. Developed-country populations that began their fertility transitions relatively early are becoming increasingly diverse with respect to the ethnic origin and religion of their inhabitants, primarily as a result of high recent levels of immigration. Many demographic patterns of the developed world, such as low death and birth rates, are becoming universal. It might be expected that less developed countries will also turn from emigration to experiencing immigration, as their populations age and their economies develop. This essay suggests, however, that future ethnic diversity arising from immigration may be less marked in many of those developing countries than in the West, especially among latecomers to the fertility transition. Five reasons are advanced as impediments to the globalization of ethnic heterogeneity arising from immigration: demographic, economic, political, and factors related to resource constraints, and climate change. The essay considers what social, economic, and political consequences might arise if high levels of ethnic diversity, and possibly ethnic replacement, remained an idiosyncratic peculiarity of today's developed countries, which would therefore diverge in important ways from the rest of the world as the twenty-first century unfolds.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of Demography, Oxford University.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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