Ethnic diversity and welfare in Transylvania (Romania)

Principal investigator: Zsombor Csata

Funding agency: Hungarian Academy of Sciences János Bolyai Research Fellowship – BO/00604/17/9

Period: 2017-2020

Research questions and objectives:

The research explores whether ethnolinguistic diversity – and specifically ethnic polarization  – has an impact on the development of local economies and welfare conditions in multi-ethnic Transylvania (Romania). It specifically addresses how diversity and its historical change affects the production of two components of welfare conditions: public and private goods. To what extent is fragmentation reinforcing opportunism and rent seeking in the management of public goods? Does diversity have a tangible, measurable positive impact on the development of businesses and the local private economy?

Research history:

In an earlier statistical study – also financed by the Bolyai Scholarship – we found that polarization in itself does not affect welfare conditions in Transylvania. Instead, rather the differing presence of certain ethnic groups – especially the disadvantaged Roma – contributes to the explaination of diverging levels of local development. However, going down to the level of smaller regions or counties, we find a great variety of effects. The aim of the research is to explore and understand this complexity using fieldwork methods in several, ethnically polarized villages and towns in Transylvania.

Research methods:

First, a fully-fledged econometric analysis (regression analysis) will be performed on whether the change of diversity over time influences the economic development of the municipalities, including the accumulation/decrease of both public and private goods. Using the results of this analysis, two locations will be selected – a village and a town – where the relationship between diversity and development is positive, and two other where it is negative. In order to understand the mechanism of these diverging effects in these locations we will carry out a more detailed exploratory analysis using fieldwork methods (individual and focus group interviews, participant observations).

Research results in 2019:

In the second phase of the research, we have so far carried out fieldworks in two Transylvanian towns with a high degree of ethnic polarization: Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely) and Satu Mare (Szatmárnémeti). In addition to examining secondary data sources (wealth declaration forms and business registers) about the increasing ethnic inequalities, we conducted individual interviews with members of the economic and administrative elite mainly about the way they address different coordination problems arising from the ethno-linguistic diversity within their institutions (companies, administrative institutions). We were interested in what kind of practices are developed and institutionalized in order to manage diversity, and how these affect the effectiveness of work in organizations. Significant differences showed up between public institutions and private businesses – surprisingly, there is a more pronounced shift towards ethnic homogenization among the players of the market, especially in those companies that provide higher value-added services.

Previous research results:

Both the official statistics and the results of previous surveys show that the social positions of ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania are declining and that the ethno-linguistic institutional parallelism is growing not only in education, culture and politics, but also in the economy. The institutionalization of parallelism is influenced by three interrelated groups of factors: the demographic concentration of Hungarians, the deterioration of Romanian language skills, and the decrease of inter-ethnic social connections. The higher the presence of minorities in a municipality, the worse the aggregate welfare indicators, and the unfavorable effects of ethnic parallelism are more pronounced in the management of public goods.


Csata, Z. (2018). Economy and Ethnicity in Transylvania. In Unequal Accommodation of Minority Rights (pp. 345-379). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Csata, Z., & Marácz, L. (2018). Regulatory Environment, Linguistic Inequalities, and New Opportunities for Hungarian Minority Interest. Language Policy and Linguistic Justice: Economic, Philosophical and Sociolinguistic Approaches, 393.

Press coverage:

In Hungarian:

„Kevesebbet keres ma Romániában egy erdélyi magyar, mint egy román. Miért?” - 2018. január 4., 

„Kényes kérdés” Erdélyben a magyar alkalmazott” - 2018. december 30.,, 

 „Mennyivel keres kevesebbet, aki nem tud románul?” - 2019. április 19.,

„Felmérés: a székelyföldi magyarok kevesebbet keresnek, mint a románok” – 2019. július 10.,

„Jobban keres a magyar munkavállaló olyan cégnél, ahol román alkalmazottak vannak többségben” 2019. november 14., 

„Ahol kirakat a multikulti, ott a magyar nyelv piaci értéke is alacsony” - 2019. november 27. 

„Etnikai „munkaburok”: jellemző, hogy magyar magyart alkalmaz a kommunikációs gátak elkerüléséért” - 2020. január 18., 

In other languages:

„Piața nu readuce limba maghiară în spațiul public, dimpotrivă: contribuie la enclavizare”  - 2020. január 28.,