Minority Group, group of people sharing common ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds, especially when constituting a comparatively small proportion of a given population. Minority groups often have fewer rights and less power than majority groups. A primary factor in the existence of minorities is immigration, but settlement by one people can also result in the indigenous or conquered people becoming a minority, as in the case of Native Americans or the Aboriginal Australians. In Europe, throughout history, ties of minority peoples with their countries of ethnic origin have led to international disputes and wars, as in the case of the Sudetenland. In a heterogeneous society, cultural and class differences between diverse elements of the population can become more pronounced, causing inequalities through discrimination.
The array of minority groups in the United States has enriched American life and in recent years has also tested the nation’s capacity for inclusion, fairness, and rights for all. During the 1960s, many minorities throughout the world became more active in fighting discriminatory injustices; these efforts have generally continued through the 1990s. Among these groups have been blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans in the United States; French-Canadians in Canada; Basques in Spain; and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland.