“Ethnic Policies” – Remedy for Between-Group Inequalities?

Project Description

Aims and Central Research Question

We investigate specific ethnic policies towards the Sámi in Norway and Sweden, addressing recognition and self-governance, land and reindeer issues, language and education. Our main interest is in the consequences of such policies on structural and perceived inequalities and their effects on socio-economic inequalities, language proficiency, and feelings of discrimination among the Sámi. Do we still find indications of structural and perceived inequalities and discrimination after a long phase of assimilation policies? What are the effects of different policies in Norway and Sweden in recent times?


The Sámi are an Arctic people inhabiting the Sápmi area in the northern part of the Fennoscandian peninsula, with larger populations only in Norway and Sweden. After a long history of discrimination and strong assimilation policies, the Sámi started to be recognized and granted autonomy from the 1950s onward, their language becoming a school subject in the 1970s. Since the 1980s formal organization, political rights and social, economic, language and educational policies developed differently in Norway and Sweden. Norway is commonly considered to provide a more favorable political-legal environment for the Sámi than Sweden.


Our research is based on a population survey among the residents of several municipalities in northern Norway and Sweden, in which a significant share of the inhabitants is Sámi (based on the number of registered voters for the Sámediggi/the Sámi Parliament).

The survey topics include: ethnic self-identification and family background, experiences of discrimination, socio-economic situation, political opinion, socio-demographic aspects, and Sámi language skills and maintenance.

The political opinion section targets differences between Sámi policies in Norway and Sweden. Perceptions and evaluations of such policies are measured using survey experiments, in which respondents are asked to choose between two policy solutions for exemplary social and political controversies. The policy alternatives (real Norwegian, Swedish or fictional policies) are randomly selected from a set of different options.

Sámi policies are to a great deal language and education policies, and identification as Sámi is to some degree language based. Therefore, the linguistic section of the survey collects information on language use of both Sámi and the national majority language. Among other things, this has included developing an objective measure of vocabulary proficiency in North Sámi.

Data collection

The survey was conducted in two stages between April and August 2021 in collaboration with Respons Analyse AS (Norway) and Norstat Sverige AB (Sweden). In the first stage, all adult residents with a registered phone number from the selected municipalities were invited to take part in a seven-minute computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI). A total of 2396 respondents from Norway and 3020 from Sweden participated, corresponding to 21.5% (Norway) and 48.2% (Sweden) of all individuals that could be reached by phone and matched the profile of the survey target population.

During the telephone interviews, participants were invited to proceed to the second stage, which consisted of an extensive online (or paper) questionnaire. Subsequently, they were able to take part in the web-based assessment of language use. A total of 21.8% of the Norwegian and 30.4% of the Swedish CATI-participants took part in the second stage, amounting to a total of 1440 respondents in the second stage.

The share of participants that self-identify as Sámi was 21.9% (Norway) and 11.6% (Sweden) in the first stage. In the second stage, this group accounted for 26.6% of the participants in Norway and 11.5% in Sweden.


Political Science, Linguistics

Starting Date

1 October 2019

Project Partners

Norstat Sverige AB

Norstat is a leading European provider of technology-driven data collection methods for analysts, consumer insights and market research. Find more information about Norstat

Respons Analyse AS

Respons Analyse is a full-service consulting analysis agency based in Norway. Find more information about Response Analyse.