Based on Richard T. Schaefer, Racial and Ethnic Groups 5 - 10 (1993).

What is a Minority Group

  • A subordinate group whose members have significantly less control or power over their lives than members of a dominant or majority group
  • Not limited to mathematical minority: example women, Blacks in South Africa, Blacks in Mississippi and South Carolina in the 1920's
  • Interchangeable with subordinate group
  • A group that experiences a narrowing of opportunities (success, education, wealth, etc) that is disproportionately low compared to their numbers in the society


Characteristics of a Minority Group
  • Distinguishing physical or cultural traits, e.g. skin color or language
  • Unequal Treatment and Less Power over their lives
  • Involuntary membership in the group (no personal choice)
  • Awareness of subordination and strong sense of group solidarity
  • High In-group Marriage


Types of Minority Groups


  • Groups who are classified according to obvious physical characteristics, e.g. skin color
  • US Racial Minority Groups: Blacks, American Indian, Asian Americans, Hawaiians
  • Groups who are differentiated on the basis of culture such as language, food
  • US Ethnic Minority Groups: Hispanics or Latinos such as Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Cuban; Jews are also consider cultural minorities instead of religious minorities.
  • Racial groups can also so have distinctive cultural traditions
  • Note: Ethnic minority can be either black or white or Asian American or Native American. So that a person can be both Black and Hispanic


  • Males are a social majority; women demonstrate four out of five characteristics of minority status. There are no in-group marriages
  • Groups who have a religion other than the dominant faith.

US Religious minorities - Muslims, Amish, Mormons, Roman Catholics




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Vernellia R. Randall
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton
School of Law
Dayton, OH 45469-2772
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