Second-class citizen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

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 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. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them (see police misconduct and racial profiling). Systems with de facto second-class citizenry are generally regarded as violating human rights. Typical impediments 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), as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, weapons ownership, marriage, gender identity and expression, housing and property ownership.

The category is normally unofficial, and the term itself is generally used as a pejorative and 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 American South under segregation, apartheid in South Africa, and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the parliamentary era are all examples of groups that have been historically described as having second-class citizenry.

By contrast, a resident alien or foreign national may have limited rights within a jurisdiction (such as not being able to vote, and having to register with the government), but is also given the law's protection[citation needed], and is usually accepted by the local population[citation needed]. 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. Adopted people, in most states, have their original birth certificate sealed for 99 years at the time of their adoption and cannot access it without a court order for medical necessity.


A proposed American guest worker program has been criticized as creating second-class citizens.[1]

Susan Cain, author of the 2012 non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, likened introverts today to women at the dawn of the feminist movement—second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.[2]

Latvian non-citizens constitute a group similar to second-class citizens.[3] Although they are not considered foreigners (they hold no other citizenship, have Latvian IDs, and most were born in Latvia), they have reduced rights compared to full citizens. For example, non-citizens are not eligible to vote or hold public office, and their economic rights are restricted by law. Estonian non-citizens are in a similar position.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "That's Hospitality | New Republic". 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  2. ^ Glor, Jeff (interviewer), "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," by Susan Cain" (WebCite archive), CBS News authorTALK page, January 26, 2012.
  3. ^ "'Walk like a Latvian'". New Europe. 2013-06-01. Retrieved 2013-10-03.