Articles Research Chatter

Is the “People In Country” perspective necessary?

For quite a while, I have been thinking about the people in country perspective. In 2002 we developed a flat database of the worlds peoples to place on the Internet. By flat I mean that the database was one table and had no relationships. During that development we took out the people in country perspective leaving only one record per people group. We combined the populations and also added two fields. All Countries and Number of Countries. In the All Countrys field we added all the countries that people live in using the 2 letter country code. In the Number of Countries field we added the number of countries. Any we did this because at the time, the Internet was much slower and to render a database driven page showing hundreds of records you couldn’t have relational tables. That is when I began thinking about the People In Country Perspective.

People in country perspective basically means that there is a record in your database table for every country that people live in. Not one record as in our flat table.

The “Bit” people live in  Laos and China. In a flat file there is one record, in your traditional peoples database there are two records for the same people. Sometimes there are even two tables, one for peoples and another for the countries those peoples live in.

If we are going to involve many other people in the research process we need to make things as simple as possible. There are many good researchers out there who don’t use Access or other relational database programs. I can think of two very well known researchers. 

The largest (tracked) ethnic peoples: the British living in 158 countries. Another is the French in 125 countries. Another, the North Americans in 100 countries. And another, Han Chinese, Mandarin 98 countries and so on.. I personally believe that it is impossible to track migration (especially on these larger peoples) and may not be necessary among these larger groups as many have churches established and probably the others that we think don’t really do, we just don’t know about them.

If you look at most of the world peoples databases they break down into peoples by country. However, one third of all the people records generated by this perspective is for 230 mostly reached peoples over 100,000 in population. Please see: What Should The Unreached Peoples Priority Be?

One concern is that a peoples by country perspective database grows in size (record numbers) by almost one third for these 230 peoples living in more than 5 countries.

So I am not necessarily saying we should do away with all people in country perspective, but can we improve it?  As someone working outside North America in missionary mobilization the peoples in country perspective is very often confusing to your average person interested in missions. I understand that many strategies are country focused and also about country access for missionaries. I just think the perspective can be improved. 

For evangelization purposes,  a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance, then a people living in two seperate countries should be considered two seperate peoples IF there is a barrier. If not they are conidered one people and not shown in both views, e.g. PGAC and PGIC. [People Group Across Country and People Group In Country.

   Total Number Peoples Across Country (PGAC)  Total Number Peoples In Country (PGIC)
WCD              13,601               8,699
GSEC              11,601               8,313
JP              16,304               9,763
HIS              n/a              10,609

If you read the Paul Hattaway profiles closely (e.g. Operation China, Peoples of the Buddhist World, Peoples of Vietnam and Laos) it is clear that what we have called “one ethnic people group” (but have counted them two times as they live in two countries) is probably two distinct ethnic peoples. This probably applies to many parts of the world.