Understanding people's ethnicity and their sense of national identity is key to understanding many current social and economic trends. Britain has a rich mix of cultures and communities and some of these reflect long-standing history and heritage, while others reflect more recent and ongoing social changes.
Defining and measuring ethnicity and national identity has never been easy, especially as what the term embraces is constantly evolving. However, it is vitally important that we measure ethnicity and national identity, and it is gathered in a way that is sound, sensitive, relevant and useful.
To that end, we have produced these guidelines suggesting National Statistics standards for the collection and classification of ethnicity data in order to achieve comparability over time, and between data sources. The aim has been to generate standards that meet a range of user needs and which also provide comparability with the 2001 Census as far as possible.
In brief, we are giving guidance for two methods: a two-question and a single question method. Generally speaking, we recommend the two-question method, which combines ethnic and national group dimensions. However, we recommend using the single question method, restricted to only ethnic groups, when the following conditions apply:
it is possible to ask one question only
direct comparison with the 2001 Census is important
response to the data collection is not likely to suffer because of the lack of a national group question
national group is not an important dimension to measure or ask about
Wherever possible, we recommend the inclusion of a question on religion.
We have included, for each option, standard data presentations and questions, taking into account differences between geographic levels and modes of collection, i.e. whether face-to-face, telephone interview, or a self-completion questionnaire method is being used.
We also give guidelines for the collection and classification of more detailed ethnic group data and for the collection of data on other dimensions such as religion and country of birth. In addition we list some available sources on ethnic group statistics.