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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In Search of the Unified Nation-State: National Attachment among Distinctive Citizens


Nation-states include, to varying degrees, citizens that “stand out” due to factors such as place of birth, ethnicity, language, and religion. We investigate whether these “distinctive” citizens manifest an attachment to the state equal to that of more “central” citizens. Using cross-national surveys, we measure national attachment among a nation-state’s “distinctive” and “core” population and then seek to uncover the conditions under which national attachment is universalized. We construct a model of national attachment with individual- and country- level predictors as well as a set of interaction terms that test whether various country-level factors condition the effect of “distinctiveness.” These interactions suggest that distinctive citizens’ attachment to the nation-state decreases as the size of the distinctive population increases, and, somewhat surprisingly, as the level of economic inequality increases. We find no evidence that democratic institutions affect the views of distinctive citizens, though there is some evidence that federalism helps mitigate the effect of distinctiveness. These results have particular implications for state-building and democratic consolidation in multi-ethnic states.

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