The world's 7.8 billion people are incredibly diverse. We humans display a dazzling array of languages, customs, religions, races and ethnicities, values, traditions, and more. In light of this massive diversity, it should stand to reason that most countries celebrate not just one, but a wide range of cultures and people groups. But what countries are the most diverse of all?
Cultural diversity and Erkan Gören's study
In 2013, German researcher Erkan Gören released a study titled "Economic Effects of Domestic and Neighbouring Countries' Cultural Diversity", which measured the amount of cultural diversity in 180 countries worldwide. Gören considered the ethnicity and similarity of language between each country's major people groups. Gören reasoned that people groups who shared a language were more likely to also share other aspects of their culture, while groups whose languages were dissimilar probably also had additional significant cultural differences. Gören finished by giving each country a score between 0 and 1, with 1 being the most diverse and 0 being the least diverse.
It's important to note that the goal of Gören's study was not to construct a list of the most racially diverse countries, but to identify the most culturally diverse nations. As such, the study de-emphasizes race (which many modern ethnologists argue is a social construct, not a genetic one) and instead prioritized differences in culture from one group of people to another.
This methodology is important when examining countries such as Brazil. The country's population includes a diverse range of races—however, because virtually all Brazilians of any race speak Portuguese as their primary language, Gören surmised their culture had also become fairly homogenized and ranked Brazil as one of the least culturally diverse.
By comparison, Cameroon boasts approximately 250 indigenous populations and more than 200 local languages, thereby qualifying as highly diverse. In fact, Cameroon's many cultures and religions, along with the peace and tolerance they extend to one another, prompted UNESCO to describe Cameroon as an "example of diversity to the world."
Top 10 Most Culturally Diverse Countries in the World - Gören 2013
- Chad - 0.8514
- Cameroon - 0.8426
- Nigeria - 0.8306
- Togo - 0.8118
- Congo (Dem. Republic of) - 0.8111
- Kenya - 0.8091
- Guinea-Bissau - 0.7857
- Congo (Republic of) - 0.7764
- Ivory Coast - 0.7723
- Liberia - 0.7694
By Gören's measure, the world's most culturally diverse country is the African nation of Chad, which counts more than 100 ethnic groups among its 8.6 million residents. Chad is also Africa's fifth-largest country by area, spanning over 495,624 square miles, which has enabled Chad's ethnic groups to live and operate autonomously despite several attempts to unify them. Most of the 100 languages spoken in Chad are Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic in origin and do not overlap with ethnic group identities. Arabic, Sara, and French are common across the country, especially Arabic, an important commercial language.
African countries often rank highly in studies of cultural diversity thanks to their many tribal groups and languages. In fact, Canada is the only western country among the top 20 most diverse countries.