Second-class citizenship

Other Names:
Two-tier economic system

A second-class citizen is a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws, illegal immigrants, or criminals, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights and socioeconomic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their putative superiors. Systems with de facto second-class citizenry are generally regarded as violating human rights.

Typical conditions facing second-class citizens include but are not limited to:

disenfranchisement (a lack or loss of voting rights) limitations on civil or military service (not including conscription in every case) restrictions on language, religion, education lack of freedom of movement and association limitations on the right to keep and bear arms restrictions on marriage restrictions on housing restrictions on property ownership

The category is normally unofficial and mostly academic, and the term itself is generally used as a pejorative. Governments will typically deny the existence of a second class within the polity. As an informal category, second-class citizenship is not objectively measured; however, cases such as the Southern United States under racial segregation, Aboriginals in Australia prior to 1967, deported ethnic groups designated as "special settlers" in the Soviet Union, apartheid in South Africa, women in Saudi Arabia under Saudi law, Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the Parliamentary era are all examples of groups that have been historically described as having second-class citizenry. Historically, before the mid-20th century, this policy was applied by some European colonial empires on colonial residents of overseas possessions.

A resident alien or foreign national, and children in general, fit most definitions of second-class citizen. This does not mean that they do not have any legal protections, nor do they lack acceptance by the local population. A naturalized citizen carries essentially the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen (a possible exception being ineligibility for certain public offices), and is also legally protected.

Broader Problems:
Class consciousness
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET