A minority group is a sociological category within a demographic. Rather than a relational "social group", as the term would indicate, the term refers to a category that is differentiated and defined by the social majority, that is, those who hold the majority of positions of social power in a society. The differentiation can be based on one or more observable human characteristics, including, for example, ethnicity, race, gender, wealth, health or sexual orientation. Usage of the term is applied to various situations and civilizations within history, despite its popular mis-association with a numerical, statistical minority. In the social sciences, the term "minority" is used to refer to categories of persons who hold few positions of social power.
The term "minority group" often occurs alongside a discourse of civil rights and collective rights which gained prominence in the 20th century. Members of minority groups are prone to different treatment in the countries and societies in which they live. This discrimination may be directly based on an individual's perceived membership of a minority group, without consideration of that individual's personal achievement. It may also occur indirectly, due to social structures that are not equally accessible to all. Activists campaigning on a range of issues may use the language of minority rights, including student rights, consumer rights and animal rights.