Are regimes in diverse societies more repressive? A crosstemporal, crossnational analysis

Scott Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Are governments in highly diverse societies more likely to use political repression against their citizens? A notable dialogue occurred between Lord Acton and John Stuart Mill, with Mill arguing that government institutions in relatively homogeneous states are more likely to be free and effective, and thus less prone to violating individual rights. Conversely, Lord Acton argued that the presence of a diverse range of social groups in a polity necessitates a high degree of political tolerance. A number of current scholars are engaged in this debate as well. In recent decades, researchers have identified a number of factors that may lead to higher levels of state-sponsored repression, including population size and growth rate, economic development, the presence of formal guarantees of rights, regime type, and the presence of civil or international war. However, only a small number of works have focused on the role of ethnic and religious diversity as a potential determinant of the level of government respect for basic human rights. Most research thus far has focused on the relationship between diversity and genocide or mass killing. Researchers have generally failed to address the relationship more broadly. This study examines the effect of cultural diversity in the developing world. Are regimes in more diverse societies more likely to use political terror against their citizens than governments in more homogeneous settings? To empirically address the contribution of cultural diversity, the study employs multivariate analytical techniques to pooled cross-sectional time series data in order to assess the relative impact of ethnic and religious diversity on political repression on a global sample of developing countries. The findings lend a modest degree of support to the argument that cultural diversity is associated with lower levels of state terror.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-44
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural diversity
  • Human rights
  • Regime performance
  • Repression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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