Cultural Diversity Cultural diversity refers to the wide range of cul- tural differences found between and within nations. Cultural diversity between countries may be the result of natural circumstances (such as climate and geography) or social circumstances (such as level of technology and composition of the population). Some nations—such as Sweden—are referred to as homogeneous societies, meaning that they include people who share a common culture and who are typically from similar social, religious, political, and economic backgrounds (though this is chang- ing in Sweden and other countries as they become more diverse). By contrast, other nations—including the United States—are referred to as heterogeneous societies, meaning that they include people who are dissimilar in regard to social characteristics such as religion, income, or race/ethnicity (see ● Figure 3.2).
Immigration contributes to cultural diversity in a society. Throughout its history, the United States has been a nation of immigrants (see ● Map 3.3). Over the past 200 years, more than 60 million “doc- umented” (legal) immigrants have arrived here; innumerable people have also entered the country as undocumented immigrants. Immigration can cause feelings of frustration and hostility, especially in people who feel threatened by the changes that large numbers of immigrants may produce. Often, people are intolerant of those who are different from themselves. When societal tensions rise, people may look for others on whom they can place blame—or single out persons because they are the “other,” the “outsider,” the one who does not “belong.”
Can people overcome these feelings in a cultur- ally diverse society such as the United States? Some analysts believe that it is possible to communicate with others despite differences in race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, religion, social class, occupation, leisure pursuits, regional- ism, and so on. People who differ from the domi- nant group may also find reassurance and social support in a subculture.
Subcultures A subculture is a category of peo- ple who share distinguishing attributes, beliefs, values, and/or norms that set them apart in some significant manner from the dominant culture. This concept has been applied to distinctions rang- ing from ethnic, religious, regional, and age-based categories to those categories presumed to be “devi- ant” or marginalized from the larger society. In the broadest use of the concept, members of thousands of categories of people residing in the United States might be classified as participants in one or more subcultures, including social media users, Native
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