Similarities Between Race and Ethnicity  

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What is “Race”?  

The etymology of the word “race” is intricate, incorporating numerous historical and cultural influences. The word “race” originally referred to a group of people who had a shared ancestry, frequently based on family or lineage. The term was probably derived from the Old Norse word “ras,” which similarly denoted a group of individuals having a shared lineage. Its usage can be traced back to the 14th century in Middle English, when it was spelled “rase” and meant “a group of people related by blood.” The word “race” first appeared in the 16th century to refer to groups of people who had similar physical traits like skin tone or facial features.  Race was commonly utilized to categorize and classify the inhabitants of the English colonies by the 18th century—Europeans who considered themselves to be free, conquered Amerindians, and Africans who were brought in as slave labor (Smedley et al., 2022). 

Currently, the Office Management and Budget (OMB) of the United States of America specify five minimum categories of race: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (Jensen, 2021). The following describe each of the five categories of race (Morin, 2022):  

  • All people who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups with roots in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa are included in the category “White.” These groups include Italians, Iranians, French, Irish, and Egyptians. 
  • Individuals who identify with at least one ethnic group or nationality originating in Southeast Asia, Far East, or the Indian subcontinent are categorized as “Asian”. Examples of these include Filipinos, Chinese, Asian Indians, and Koreans. 
  • All people who identify with one or more countries or ethnic groups descended from any of the Black racial groups of Africa are included in the category “Black or African American,” according to the dictionary. These groups include Kenyans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, and Somalis.
  • Those who identify with at least one ethnic group or nationality originating in Guam, Hawaii, Samoa or other Pacific Islands fall under the category “Native Hawaiian” or “ Other Pacific Islander”. These groups include Samoans, Native Hawaiians, and Tongans. 
  • All people who identify with one of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, or South America fall under the category of “American Indian or Alaska Native”. These groups include Mayans, Nome Eskimo Community, Mayans, and Blackfeet Tribe. 

What is “Ethnicity”? 

The word “ethnicity” came from the Greek word “ethnos,” which means “a nation or people with a distinct culture and identity,” is where the word “ethnicity” originates. The Romans later appropriated the word “ethnos,” using the Latinized form “ethnicus,” to refer to a group of people who shared a common language, culture, and history. The term “ethnicity” describes the categorization of a group as a “people” grounded on a discerned cultural background. Such identity is often represented in various elements such as rituals, food, clothing, sanctions, mores, music and arts, taboos, beliefs, and social organization. Ethnicity is characterized by a cultural comprehensiveness which is a distinct collection of cultural traits that are manifested in throughout a group of people’s socio-cultural life (Delaney, et al., 2022).

Both ethnic attribution and ethnic association have significant impacts on ethnic identity. Individuals’ sense of belonging to a group and the traits of the group as described by its members are referred to as ethnic affinity. The traits of the group as perceived by outsiders are the focus of ethnic attribution (Brumfiel, 2001).

What are the Similarities between Race and Ethnicity? 

Similarity in Terms of Social Construct 

Both race and ethnicity are terms formed by society to identify and classify social groups based on shared traits including lineage, language, culture, and physical appearance.

Similarity in Terms of Identification

Individuals can self-identify with a specific race or ethnicity based on their own sense of their cultural and/or biological ancestry. Also, race and ethnicity are used to define groups of people who have a common identity, whether it be based on physical or cultural features.

Similarity in Terms of Influence on Social Status 

Because some racial and ethnic groups may encounter bias or discrimination as a result of their classification, race and ethnicity can both affect social standing and access to resources. 

Similarity in Terms of Stereotype

A person’s race and ethnicity can influence how he is perceived by those around him. Such social constructs are related to stereotypes since people can make assumptions based on an individual’s ethnic or racial background. 


  • Both race and ethnicity are social constructs. 
  • “Race” and “ethnicity” are used in group and individual identification. 
  • People’s race and ethnicity have influence on their social status. 
  • Both race and ethnicity are closely related to stereotypes.  

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What is the difference between race and ethnicity?

While race is based on shared biological and physical characteristics, ethnicity is based on origin and cultural expression (Morin, 2022).  For instance, examples of race include White, African American, and Asian while examples of ethnicity include Cherokee, Aboriginal Australians, and Manchu. 

Can you have the same race and ethnicity?

When it comes to some Indigenous people, who have both a racial and ethnic identity, race and ethnicity can occasionally overlap or be closely related.

What is an example of an ethnicity?

Examples include Cherokee (in America), Indo-Canadians, Aboriginal Australians, Manchu people (in China), and Ibaloi (in the Philippines). 

What is considered an ethnicity?

The term “ethnicity” describes the categorization of a group as a “people” based on a perceived cultural distinctiveness that is thought to be represented in language, music, values, art, styles, literature, family life, religion, ritual, food, naming, public life, and material culture.

Is Canadian an ethnicity or nationality?

Both, “Canadian” is included as a choice or ethnic origins in the census (Statistics Canada, 2001).

What are the 5 races?

The U.S. Office Management and Budget (OMB) specify five minimum categories of race: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (Jensen, 2021). 

Author: Gene Balinggan

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References :

+ Brumfiel, E.M. (2001). International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral science. Science Direct.

+ Delaney, C. L. , Schildkrout, . Enid , Paul, . Robert Allen , Hanchett, . Suzanne L. , Leslie, . Charles Miller , Fernandez, . James W. , Feeley-Harnik, . Gillian , Spencer, . Jonathan Robert , Nicholas, . Ralph W. , Tuttle, . Russell Howard , Aronoff, . Myron J. , Horowitz, . Michael M , Östör, . Ákos , Hannerz, . Ulf , Ghannam, . Farha , Smith, . Eric A. , Hopkins, . Nicholas S. , Kuper, . Adam J. , Esterik, . Penny Van , Robotham, . Donald Keith , Keyes, . Charles F. , Kolata, . Alan L. , Varenne, . Hervé , Seeger, . Anthony , Lomnitz, . Claudio , Hill, . Jane H. and Jeganathan, . Pradeep (2022, October 4). anthropology. Encyclopedia Britannica.

+ Jensen, E. (2021). Measuring racial and ethnic diversity for the 2020 census. United States Census Bureau.

+ Morin, A. (2022). The difference between race and ethnicity. Verywell Mind.

+ Smedley, A. , Wade, . Peter and Takezawa, . Yasuko I. (2022, December 10). race. Encyclopedia Britannica.

+ Statistics Canada. (2001). Main ethnic groups in Canada.


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