The growth of Hungary’s Roma minority — A fascinating new study

Hungary’s Roma minority has doubled in size over 25 years, according to a study conducted by researchers at Debrecen University for an academic journal entitled Területi Statisztika. What makes this study truly compelling is its unique methodology. Numbers compiled during the national census routinely underestimate the size of Hungary’s Roma community–the country’s largest minority group–as respondents often choose not to disclose their minority status. Instead of asking respondents to self-report their ethnicity, the researchers collected data from municipal governments, as well as from both Roma and non-Roma mayors of rural towns or villages, and information from Roma self-government bodies.

Photo: Országos Roma Önkormányzat.

There is a risk that this method may have somewhat overestimated the number of Roma and the researchers recognize this. However, after spending three years collecting data (from 2010 to 2013), they found that:

  • There are 876,000 Roma in Hungary, comprising 9% of the country’s population. In 1971, a study by sociologist István Kemény found that Roma numbered 320,000, while by 1987 this number was 400,000.
  • In large parts of northeastern Hungary (particularly Nógrád and around the town of Salgótarján), Roma comprise 20% to 25% of the total population.
  • In some regions of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Roma now comprise between 34% to 39% of the total population. (In and around the town of Ózd, the Roma make up 39% of the local population.)
  • Approximately 7% of Budapest’s population is Roma, while the average proportion in small to medium sized towns is 9% and in villages it is 12%.
  • The fewest Roma live mostly in parts of western Hungary, such as Mosonmagyaróvár (1%), as well as the Balaton region (1% in Balatonalmádi).

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the study is one of its conclusions. Similarly to what is still relatively pervasive in the United States, the “one-drop rule” applies in Hungary too. This means that Hungarians born from mixed marriages or those who have some Roma ancestry are generally classified as Roma by their immediate environment. Additionally, the researchers found that locals will sometimes classify the poor as being, be default, Roma, with little regard to ethnicity.

One question that arises with such a study is whether ethnic identity is constructed. The fact that often the poor are lumped together as being Roma seems to affirm this theory. However, many Roma do not self-identify as belonging to a minority for official purposes–so is it justifiable to ask others in society to label them and assign to them an identity that they do not publicly adopt?

In spite of this conundrum, the study provides valuable information on Hungary’s changing demographics–a change that school teachers in northeastern Hungary and in parts of Budapest can certainly confirm.


  1. But any way you try to slice it, it is discrimination, therefore cruel, senseless and stupid, to say the least!

    Will, or can Hungarians ever outgrow of their senseless stupidity? Because, that is all this is. Nothing else. Just like it was with the Jews in the past. As long they can find a group of people they can use as scape-goats, they feel ten foot taller.

    As for the “figures”, ALL THOSE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES” are lies and BS. Just an excuse to spend more of the tax-payers hard earned money on more BS.

    All this BS to be published by any so called “open-minded circles” is the goal to spread more BS and hate. Will citizens of a country, some dare to call it Hungary, ever learn, or want to become a civilized and free nation ? I really doubt ! This is another evidence of ‘ back to the past’, and never to the future. Just what kind of a future they would chose anyway? Hm???

  2. Avatar StrandedinSopron says:

    Hmmm…. Mr Orban’s *vision* of a White-Only, ethnically homogenuous Hungary seems somewhat far from being achieved.

    The figures for the under-18 age group would also be most interesting. I can imagine the typical Fidesz voter’s brain exploding if the true extent of that data ever came to light.

    • Avatar Hungarian Free Press says:

      In Nógrád, the proportion of Roma students under 18 is well over one-third and in nearly 300 Hungarian schools, the proportion of Roma students is at 50% or more. This is just one more reason why it is absurd to speak of ethnic homogeneity in Hungary.

      • I think the most absurd aspect in this conversation is the mis-characterization of what Hungary’s government and most Hungarians mean by protecting the country’s homogeneous culture. It most certainly does not suggest the homogenization of Hungary and its current historical diversity, in order to create a culturally-pure state, as you seem to suggest. It means not going down the same road as many West European countries, where conceivably as soon as by the end of this century perhaps, some countries are looking at a non-European majority population.

        A PEW study shows that countries like Sweden for instance may see its Muslim population increase to over 30% by 2050, which means that when we add all the other non-European demographic groups aside from Muslims, most likely almost half of all Swedish residents will be of non-European descent. Take this trend to the end of the century and we could be looking at native Swedes maybe making up a small minority of the population at best, assuming the new majority will not take a hostile attitude towards them, with all Europeans in the minority. This is an undeniable possibility, which given that we are talking about a place that is still currently home and habitat to a distinct native European culture, it does mean its eventual extinction through mass-colonization. This is what Hungarians reject. We are OK if 200 years from now some Hungarians will say they are 1/8 Chinese and perhaps 1/16 Roma. We are not OK if the only people left identifying as Hungarians at all will be some who will mention that they are 1/8 Hungarian, as is the case with many extinct native groups in North America. This is what we reject, and I don’t think it is in any way unreasonable.

    • Mr. Orban is hardly an ethnically homogenous Hungarian himself since one of his grandmothers was Roma.

  3. But Orban in his state of the nation report has proudly bragged that “Roma” students advance in schools has doubled.
    So, what’s the BS about total ethnic Hungarians.
    Are not Hungarian Romas equal Hungarians citizens?
    Or are not all Hungarian citizens Hungarians, where-ever the hell they may have originated from centuries ago ?
    Just try “Ancestry23” you’ll wonder what it may show as your background.

  4. Better move to Germany

  5. Pingback: Hungarian Statistics … -

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