A Baseline Model of Change in an Activated Ethnic Demography

Kanchan Chandra, Cilanne Boulet

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Why does the activated ethnic demography of some countries to change while that of others remains stable? And if change can occur, what proportion of individuals in the population have the option to change? This chapter proposes a baseline model of short-term change in activated ethnic demography through electoral politics. It is based on the intuition that politicians are combinatorial entrepreneurs, who fashion ethnic identity categories by stringing together attributes into combinations that produce minimum winning electoral coalitions. We argue that change in an activated ethnic demography is possible when that population's ethnic structure generates multiple nominal ethnic identity categories of minimum winning size, and identify the conditions under which this possibility exists. The model generates three main results (1) The possibility of some change in the activated ethnic demography exists for most populations. (2) If the possibility of change exists, it does so in most cases for all individuals in a population. (3) The possibility of change for both populations and individuals is not predicted by dichotomies such as "cross-cutting v/s coinciding cleavages" or "bipolar v/s multipolar" cleavages but by a more general concept-the "distribution of attribute-repertoires"-which allows us for to predict and compare the possibility of change associated with any sort of cleavage structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConstructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199980079
ISBN (Print)9780199893157
StatePublished - Jan 24 2013


  • Coalitions
  • Elections
  • Ethnic demography
  • Ethnic diversity
  • India
  • Majority rule
  • Minimum winning
  • Rwanda
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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