Definitions of what constitutes an 'ethnic group' or an 'ethnic minority' are subject to much discussion. In fact, there is no consensus on what constitutes an 'ethnic group' and the terminology used to describe these groups has changed significantly over time.
This is because membership of any ethnic group is something that is subjectively meaningful to the person concerned, and can be based upon a combination of categories such as:
country of birth
language spoken at home
parents' country of birth in conjunction with country of birth
Therefore, we found that it was not practical to base ethnic identification upon an objective and rigid classification.
In the Census and many surveys, respondents are invited to select their particular ethnic group from a list of categories. However as the respondent is constrained and influenced by the options on offer, it is important that a self-identification question is piloted and pre-tested.
If necessary, alternative wording of the question and named categories should be used to ensure that these reflect people's own preferred ethnic descriptions of themselves. Our research has also shown that tick boxes generate more responses than write-in answers.
We use classifications to ensure consistent description and comparison of statistics.
So, when managing and updating the ethnicity classification you should follow these basic classification rules:
1. Group the items using a conceptual basis.
2. Provide categories that reflect and distinguish between the significant ethnic groups present in the United Kingdom.
3. Ensure that the classification will be able to be used for a number of years.
4. Create a classification that you will be able to use in a variety of different types of collections, for example, telephone, Internet, interviewer-administered and self-administered surveys, and for administrative data.
5. Construct a classification that will produce data comparable with data previously produced on the subject.
6. Ensure that, no matter what the response to the question, it will fit into the classification.
When classifications relate to a concept which is evolving, they should be updated so that they reflect the current situation as well as allowing for comparisons over time.