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Social Focus in Brief: Ethnicity 2002

What is Ethnicity? The UK Context


"The subjective, multi-faceted and changing nature of ethnic identification makes it a particularly difficult piece of information to collect. There is no consensus on what constitutes an 'ethnic group'. Membership of any ethnic group is something that is subjectively meaningful to the person concerned and the terminology used to describe ethnic group has changed markedly over time. As a result, ethnic group, however defined or measured, will tend to change over time depending on social and political attitudes or developments. Basing ethnic identification upon an objective and rigid classification of ethnic groups is not therefore achievable in practice. In many surveys and the Census, respondents are invited to select their ethnic group from a list of categories. Thus the data collected are based on a 'self-identification' measure. This report presents data from a variety of sources, some of which have used different classifications of ethnicity. These show small differences since the question and answer categories vary slightly. The recommended output classification of ethnic group for National Statistics data sources changed in 2001 to be broadly in line with the 2001 Census. The new outputcategories support varying degrees of comparability with the censuses of the different countries of the United Kingdom. This change is described in more detail on the National Statistics website at  This new output classification is used for all data presented from the Annual Local Labour Force Survey as this relates to 2001/02."

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Individual views espoused in this article/paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Portmir Foundation and have been included to represent the variety of different opinions that may exist on a single issue. In accordance with our democratic charter, the Portmir Foundation values debate in a spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding, even when such views contradict those of the Foundation.  

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