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What groups are considered a minority is contextual. This could be based on definitions of race, gender, sexual orientation, language, caste, indigenous group, or other variables related to identity. Wherever minority groups are subject to discrimination and marginalization, human rights law exists to protect them. This is not always the case for data: many minorities are un- or under-counted, and some countries prohibit the collection of data on ethnicity, race, and other variables. Previously hidden communities are beginning to emerge in data sets: sexual minorities are among the groups seeking better enumeration in some countries.

Many country data sets in ICF-Macro’s Demographic and Health Surveys, UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, and the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study can be disaggregated by specific variables defining minority groups. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights conducts periodic surveys on discrimination against minorities, making both findings and data available occasionally. The University of Maryland Minorities at Risk dataset tracks 284 politically active ethnic groups throughout the world from 1945 to the present. The associated discrimination dataset records overall levels of political and economic discrimination for all groups in the Minorities at Risk Project for the period 1950-2003.