Membership to each of the concepts is something that is self-defined and subjectively meaningful to an individual.
However these concepts are measured and, in particular ethnic group and national identity they tend to evolve in the context of social and political attitudes or developments.
This guidance replaces ‘Ethnic group statistics: A guide for the collection and classification of ethnicity data (2003).
Its content is based on the recently published GSS harmonised standards on ethnic group, national identity and religion, which recommend a harmonised approach in the data collection process to allow consistency and comparability of statistical outputs across GB and the UK.
It begins by looking at the development of the recommended harmonised country specific questions for use on surveys in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and highlights issues surrounding the specific requirements for constituent countries.
It provides advice on how to ask questions and present data on ethnic group, religion and national identity on social surveys in the UK and notes some of the complexities that should be considered when collecting and classifying data.
The guidance also acknowledges that in some instances not all surveys will have the resources to ask the harmonised questions in different countries, where this does occur guidance following the recommended country specific options should be followed.
It is hoped that this guidance will be a useful tool for those collecting data on ethnic group, national identity and religion.
The guidance will be revised and updated when necessary and if you have any queries or wish to feedback on its content, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Who is this guidance for?
- Who should respond to the ethnic group, religion and national identity questions?
- How were the harmonised ethnic group, national identity and religious affiliation questions developed?
- Why use the recommended harmonised questions?
- Why are there different requirements for asking questions on surveys in Scotland?
- Why are there different requirements for asking questions in Northern Ireland?
- What are the different modes of administration?
Ethnic group, religion and national identity are self-identification measures reflecting how people define themselves. Therefore, a response to a question should be answered by the respondent directly, particularly if the respondent is an adult. It is sometimes possible to ask another member of the household to reply on behalf of a respondent, however, this should be used only as a last resort. Where this does occur notes should be recorded to reflect this. It is also important that interviewers do not attempt to use their own judgements.
The questions have been designed for use with adult respondents aged 16 or over. If the target population is below this age, guidance may be needed from the child’s parent/guardian/carer, particularly if the child is below the age of 12 as they may not understand what the question is asking. It is not recommended that categories are removed from the response options available to children as their choice should not be limited because of their age (or other factors).
How were the harmonised ethnic group, national identity and religious affiliation questions developed?
The ethnic group, national identity and religious affiliation questions were developed through a cross government harmonisation project, undertaken through consultation and workshops with key stakeholders between 2008 and 2010 that included:
Office for National Statistics
Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland
Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister/Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Data Standards Working Group
Other government departments
The questions should be used in order to achieve a harmonised approach in the data collection process which will allow for consistency and comparability of statistical outputs from different sources across the UK.
For Scotland, specific requirements came out of a review of the way Scottish surveys classified ethnicity .This followed recommendations made by the Race Equality Advisory Forum in 2001 and community concerns about the classification used in Scotland’s 2001 Census. The review conducted by the Scottish Government and the National Records of Scotland identified the benefits for developing a separate national identity and new ethnicity classification for use on the Scottish Census and relevant Scottish Official Statistics. Both questions used together would allow people to self-express their ‘Scottish-ness’, ‘British-ness’ or any other national identity before expressing their ethnic group. The new ethnicity classification was published in July 2008 and details of the classification (including research, consultation and question testing) can be found at the Scottish Government website. The classification was discussed by Members of the Scottish Parliament during considerations of the 2011 Census in Scotland and was subsequently amended for use in the Census. Details of the committee discussions can be seen in the Official Reports of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (9th and 12th meetings).
There are also specific requirements for collecting data on religion in Scotland. This is done in order to provide data on which to measure/examine sectarianism, rather than looking at Christian and non-Christian.
For further guidance on asking questions specifically for surveys in Scotland please refer to the Scottish Government website.
For Northern Ireland, specific requirements comply with the Good Friday Agreement (where it is not acceptable to ask respondents to choose between ‘Northern Irish/British’ and ‘Irish identities’) and legislation under the Race Relations (NI) Order 1997 which outlaws discrimination on grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin. The Irish Traveller community is specifically identified in the Order as a racial group against which racial discrimination is unlawful. ‘Guidance for Monitoring Racial Equality’ was published in July 2011 by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
There are also specific requirements for collecting data on religion in Northern Ireland. This is done in order to provide data on which to measure/examine sectarianism, rather than looking at Christian and non-Christian.
The questions in this guidance are suitable for interviewer-led computer-assisted telephone interviewing, face-to-face and computer-assisted personal interviewing. The questions can also be used in self-completion modes of administration e.g. paper-based, computer-assisted self interviewing and internet. There are some variations in the way the questions need to be asked depending on mode of administration.