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Designing ethnic group questions for Understanding Society , the UK Household Longitudinal Study . Alita Nandi and Lucinda Platt Institute for Social and Economic Research University of Essex “What is ethnicity? What methods best capture it?” 14 th May 2010.

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designing ethnic group questions for understanding society the uk household longitudinal study

Designing ethnic group questions for Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study

Alita Nandi and Lucinda Platt

Institute for Social and Economic Research

University of Essex

“What is ethnicity? What methods best capture it?”

14th May 2010

why do we want to measure ethnic groups
Why do we want to measure ethnic groups?

Identify and measure inequalities that do exist among people in different ethnic groups

That brings us to the question of why and how ethnic groups evolve and how individuals relate to these ethnic groups

Understand development and formation of identity along different domains including ethnic identity

so what are ethnic groups
So, what are ethnic groups?

Groups of people who believe that they share a (real or imagined) common descent (Weber, Schermerhorn, Anderson,..)

Defining one ethnic group by definition requires defining another ethnic group

Both commonality within groups and contrast with other groups are key to group recognition

what are these commonalities and contrasts
What are these commonalities and contrasts?
  • Shared attributes, behaviours and histories which may involve recognition of colour, nationality, religion, language,…
    • All need not be present to define an ethnic group
    • In-group and out-group members may disagree on what defines a particular ethnic group
    • This is reflected in a lack of consensus among researchers and respondents in what is meant by ‘ethnic groups’
individuals and ethnic groups
Individuals and ethnic groups
  • Individuals associate with ethnic groups in different dimensions, to a lesser or greater degree
    • identification with an ethnic group
    • sense of belonging to ethnic groups
    • participation in group activities
    • attitude towards own and ‘other’ ethnic groups

(Phinney 1990)

existing measures of ethnic groups
Existing measures of ethnic groups

Motivation: To count demographic groups for monitoring discrimination and inequalities in opportunities and outcomes

Necessary requirement for evaluation of implementation of anti-discrimination/equal opportunities policies (Equality Act 2010, UK Race Relations Acts, US Civil Rights Monitoring and Enforcement)

Health research

existing measures of ethnic groups7
Existing measures of ethnic groups
  • Goals are to obtain measures that are
    • Reliable
    • Consistent
    • Stable (over time, context, place,...)
    • One-dimensional
    • Objective
  • The acceptable method of measurement is self-identification
    • But ethnicity need not be ‘owned’ by respondent
existing measures of ethnic groups8
Existing measures of ethnic groups

To achieve these goals, questions to measure ethnic groups ask individuals to choose from

  • Fixed-ish (over time) categories
  • ‘Mutually exclusive’ categories, so one choice
  • Multiple choice may be allowed for mixed persons. But generally there are rules to transform responses into single categories
    • In US 2000 census reports, ‘white’ includes all those who chose white irrespective of what other categories they chose & also includes those who wrote in Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish
the problem objectivity vs subjectivity
The problem: Objectivity vs subjectivity
  • Ethnic identification
    • Varies over time, place, context
    • Varies in strength
    • Association with multiple ethnic groups
  • Ethnic groups
    • Categories useful for policy evaluation may not reflect groups that people identify with or find acceptable (political acceptability)
moreover
Moreover,

Researchers also interested in ethnic identity itself, not just as a means to measuring demographic groups

But there is lack of consensus among them as to what constitutes an ethnic group

As is among respondents

what will this person choose it depends on
What will this person choose? It depends on...
  • Categories available
    • acceptable? match with own perception?
    • Esp. for new migrants and persons of mixed parentage
  • Option to choose more than one category
    • Esp. for persons of mixed parentage
what will this person choose it depends on13
What will this person choose? It depends on...
  • On the question wording
    • describe, see yourself, belong, ethnic identity: each highlighting different aspects of ethnic identity

[Martin and Gerber 2006]

    • Question order, especially when categories do not match with own perception

[Martin et. al. 1990]

what will this person choose it depends on14
What will this person choose? It depends on...
  • Other factors that influences how a person views herself, such as
    • income, education, immigration status, 1st/2nd/third generation, life-stage, ethnicity of parents, spouse/partner and friends, social network, experiences of discrimination
    • How others/society views her
    • Existing question categories, ‘fictive unities’ (Werbner 1990, cited in Aspinall 2007)
what will this person choose it depends on15
What will this person choose? It depends on...
  • Who is asking and how?

(Martin and Gerber 2006, Lopez 2003, Telles and Lim 1998, Harris and Sims 2002)

    • face-to-face, telephone, self-completion (i.e., presence of interviewer, visual stimuli such as showcards)
    • At home, at school, at work
  • These matter because of social desirability, trust, context, response order, cognitive burden,…
aspinall s continuum of stability
Aspinall’s ‘continuum of stability

Open-ended question of self-identified group

Country of origin

Trade-off between stability and correspondence with self-perception

ideal ethnic group measure
Ideal ethnic group measure

Stable, fixed, consistent, reliable measure of ethnic group for purposes of evaluation of equal opportunity policies

Elicits ethnic identification

Measures how people regard themselves as well as how they are seen

Addresses the range of researcher needs across different disciplines

suggested solution
Suggested solution
  • Instead of a single measure that tries to but fails in all these objectives
  • We suggest: Multiple measures
    • Allows maximum flexibility for researchers and policy makers
    • Allows capturing different, but potentially overlapping ‘components’ (religion, language,..)
    • And also allows for measuring different ‘dimensions’ (identification, belonging, attitude,..)
suggested solution19
Suggested solution

Capitalises on the potential to specifically address ‘inconsistency’ as a research issue, rather than regarding it as problem

This is only possible in a longitudinal context where these questions can be asked repeatedly (and understand how these changes correlate with changes in life circumstances such as age, years since migration, experience of discrimination,…)

understanding society uk household longitudinal study
Understanding Society: UK Household Longitudinal Study
  • Large sample size: around 40,000 UK households
  • Multi-topic design to meet a wide range of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research needs
  • Innovative data collection methods (e.g. data linkage to administrative records, biomarkers
  • Ethnicity is a core element of this study
ethnicity is a core element of understanding society
Ethnicity is a core element of Understanding Society
  • Ethnic minority boost:
      • at least 1000-1200 adults in each of the five groups African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani
      • Plus upto 1100 in other ethnic minority groups identified during screening
  • Particular focus on questions relevant to ethnicity related research, including questions on ethnic background and identity
  • Extra five minutes of dedicated question time
suggested solution implemented in understanding society components of ethnic identity
Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: components of ethnic identity

Census ethnic group

Country of birth

National identity

Parents’, grandparents’ country of birth (heritage)

Religion and religious identity

suggested solution implemented in understanding society components of ethnic identity23
Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: components of ethnic identity

Language (spoken as a child at home) & fluency in English

Citizenship

Parents’ ethnic group and strength of identification to both these

issues about questions on measuring dimensions of ethnic identity
Issues about questions on measuringdimensions of ethnic identity

Difficulty came from ‘your ethnic group’ not being self-evident to respondents who differed in their understanding of ‘their ethnic group’ – race, colour, nationality, religion, language,…

So, we developed questions using qualitative and quantitative methods (Nandi and Platt, 2009, http://research.understandingsociety.org.uk/publications/working-paper/2009-03)

conclusions from our study on measuring dimensions of ethnic identity
Conclusions from our study on measuring dimensions of ethnic identity

It was possible to capture various dimensions of ethnicity / ethnic identity that go beyond allocation to a particular group - belonging, identification, attitude, behaviour & practice – without specifying an ethnic group, but allowing measurement along different components of ethnic identity – nationality, country of birth, language, religion,..

suggested solution implemented in understanding society dimensions of ethnic identity
Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: dimensions of ethnic identity

Strength of personal identification

Group belonging or affiliation

Attitudes towards own group

Behaviour such as eating food typical of group

across many components (country of birth, region, religion, language, parents’ country of birth,..)

suggested solution implemented in understanding society dimensions of ethnic identity27
Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: dimensions of ethnic identity
  • Behaviour such as interacting with other members of own group or other group
    • based on our study we decided in favour of empirically determining in-group and out-group interaction and against asking these questions directly
    • Friendship and social network questions to be included in 3rd wave
    • Attitude towards out-group: questions on harassment and discrimination
suggested solution implemented in understanding society dimensions of ethnic identity28
Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: dimensions of ethnic identity

Research on ethnic identity is incomplete without understanding of people’s identity along other domains such as gender, occupation,..

So, these to be complemented by questions on other aspects of identity included in wave 2 self completion (available in lobby)

slide29

Suggested solution implemented in Understanding Society: Example of combination of ethnicity related measures to build analytical constructs

some things focus group participants said about ethnicity or ethnic group
Some things focus group participants said about ‘ethnicity’ or ‘ethnic group’

“It’s the same as race basically but it’s just a nicer way of putting it.”

 “So the Black comes with the British for me.”

“Ethnicity for me is as important as my name.” [because it is my identity, it’s a part- on a larger scale it is my identity.]

“I don’t think much about my ethnic group…. It’s the obvious thing for me, I’m white, I cannot change it and probably it influenced who I am at the moment, shaped me somehow, but I just don’t know.”

points to ponder
Points to ponder
  • Is it helpful to think in terms of components and dimensions for thinking about ethnic groups and advancing measurement and research in ethnicity?
    • If so, what are the key components? Do they correspond to the ones we have discussed?
    • What are the key dimensions? Do they correspond to the ones we have discussed?
points to ponder32
Points to ponder
  • How can we best relate ethnic identity to other important sources of identity and identification?
  • Given the relational nature of ethnic groups, how do we go about trying to understand – and measure the impact of others on own identity?