The Multiculturalism Policy Index is a scholarly research project that monitors the evolution of multiculturalism policies in 21 Western democracies. The project is designed to provide information about multiculturalism policies in a standardized format that aids comparative research and contributes to the understanding of state-minority relations. The project provides an index at three points in time – 1980, 2000, 2010 and for three types of minorities: one index relating to immigrant groups, one relating to historic national minorities, and one relating to indigenous peoples. The Multiculturalism Policy Index and supporting documentation are freely available for researchers, public officials, journalists, students, activists, and others interested in the topic.
Beginning in the 1960s, a number of Western democracies took a “multicultural turn” in their approach to ethnocultural diversity. In the past, ethnocultural diversity was often seen as a threat to political stability, and hence as something to be discouraged by public policies. Immigrants, national minorities and indigenous peoples were all subject to a range of policies intended to either assimilate or marginalize them. Today, however, many Western democracies have abandoned these earlier policies, and shifted towards a more accommodating approach to diversity, including the widespread adoption of accommodation policies for immigrant groups, the acceptance of territorial autonomy and language rights for national minorities, and the recognition of land claims and self-government rights for indigenous peoples.
Definitions and Data
Our MCP Index measures the presence or absence of a range of multiculturalism policies (MCPs) at three points in time – 1980, 2000 and 2010 — across 21 Western democracies. There is no universally-accepted definition of a “multiculturalism policy”, and no hard and fast line that would sharply distinguish MCPs from closely related policy fields, such as anti-discrimination policies, citizenship policies and integration policies. Any list of MCPs is likely, therefore, to be controversial, and perhaps arbitrary at the edges.
Research on the effects of MCPs is still in its early stages, and it is premature to make definitive judgements about the “success” or “failure” of multiculturalism, or about the “advance” or “retreat” of multiculturalism. We hope that the Index will enable and encourage new cross-national research that would allow us to make more fine-grained judgements about the evolution and effects of multiculturalism policies.