1.1 Executive Summary
- In advance of the 2011 Scottish Census, the Scottish Executive is conducting a public consultation to review the existing ethnicity classification used in the 2001 Census. Scottish Executive Ministers gave a commitment to review the classification in response to recommendations made in the 2001 Race Equality Advisory Forum report and concerns raised by communities about the inconsistent use of colour and geography in the existing ethnicity categories. This commitment stressed the need for an ethnicity classification which better reflected the diversity of Scotland's population and allowed for more meaningful information to be gathered to better promote race equality.
- The Scottish Executive has conducted research with a range of key stakeholders with an interest in this area, data users (those who collect and analyse ethnicity data) and data providers (those who provide information about their ethnicity) to inform the development of a classification system for ethnic identity that would meet the needs of data providers and data users. Whilst views differed, those interviewed tended to agree that the current ethnicity classification could be improved to better record the diversity of Scotland's population. The research informed some of the proposals outlined in this paper and was published on the same date as this consultation.
- The current classification is a single question asking respondents to specify their ethnic group in relation to the categories: White; Mixed; Asian, Scottish Asian or Asian British; Black, Black Scottish or Black British; and Other. It defines ethnicity on the basis of colour and ethno-geographic group but in an inconsistent way for different groups. This consultation considers the broader concept of ethnic identity and breaking this down into its component parts. It considers ways in which each facet of ethnicity may be captured over a series of questions in a way that is acceptable to both data providers and data users. The paper sets out a series of questions regarding this approach and the Executive is seeking your views on these.
- The consultation highlights the impact that a change to the current classification system may have on the comparability of Scottish ethnicity data with other UK countries. It also considers the impact on the collection of ethnicity data by organisations such as employers, public authorities, health boards, education authorities, etc. to better target their own services and to comply with the Employment Duty set out under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The general approach set out in this paper is for consideration only and the approach recommended for the 2011 Census will depend very much on the responses received to this consultation, the successful testing of any new system and the views of Scottish Executive Ministers.
- The consultation will run from 23rd June to 15th September and responses will be made available to the public, where consent has been given by respondents. Following analysis of the results, a recommendation will be made to Scottish Executive Ministers and any agreed question(s) will be passed to General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS) for inclusion in the 2006 Census Test. This test allows GROS to pilot new ideas for Census questions in advance of the Census proper. The test will be circulated to 50,000 Scottish households, including a significant proportion of households in minority ethnic groups. A final report including recommendations for the ethnic identity classification system for use in the 2008 Census rehearsal will be published in 2006/2007.
1.2 How to respond
By post to:Mr Charles Brown
Office of the Chief Statistician
3WR, St Andrew's House
By email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1.3 When to respond by
Responses to this consultation are required by Thursday 15th September 2005.
This paper can be found on the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/current.
We will make all responses available to the public on the Scottish Executive website and in the Scottish Executive Library unless confidentiality is requested. Any confidentiality disclaimer generated by your computer system in an email will not be treated as such a request. Confidential responses will be included in the overall analysis of responses and any statistical summary of the number of comments received or views expressed. All responses not marked confidential will be checked for any potential defamatory material before being logged in the library or placed on the website. The response form includes a section asking if you wish your response to be confidential or not therefore please ensure that you complete this part of the form when responding. The response form is enclosed with the covering letter and a copy is also provided at Annex A. An electronic version is also provided on the Scottish Executive website at
1.4 Alternative formats
If you would like this information in an alternative language or format please contact us on: 0131 244 0324.
1.5 Best practice
We have met with the Office of the Chief Researcher to discuss how we might follow best practice for this consultation exercise. The development of this consultation paper is in line with the Scottish Executive Consultation Good Practice Guidance. Further information on this can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/1066/0006061.pdf .
2.1 Why use ethnic classification frameworks?
The 1991 UK Census was the first to include a question on ethnic group 1. It was seen as important in gathering data on the social, economic and demographic characteristics of diverse minority populations for the use of government and other service providers. However there is still some uncertainty and concern with arguments presented both for and against its inclusion 2. In the 1970s and 1980s a major argument against the ethnic group question was that since all people are equal before the law, questions on ethnic identities that compartmentalise the population only serve to heighten tensions 3. However, others argued that to properly address inequalities and disadvantage experienced by minorities in areas such as employment and housing, quantified ethnicity information was necessary 4.
The ethnic group question included in the 2001 Census is shown below for reference. Ethnic monitoring can highlight possible inequalities and enable organisations to investigate the underlying causes and take action to remove any unfairness or disadvantage. It allows service providers to see which groups are using their services and how far the needs of different groups are being met. For example NHSScotland use ethnicity data to assess the extent of health inequalities. The diabetes core dataset currently includes a field for self-assessed ethnic group, using categories based on the 2001 Scottish Census and from a report by the National Resource Centre for Minority Ethnic Health ( NRCEMH) ( www.diabetesinscotland.org.diabetes/Publications.asp ) it was identified that the prevalence rate of diabetes is 3-4 times higher than average among ethnic groups.
In addition it allows employers to examine the ethnic make-up of their workforce and consider how personnel practices and procedures affect different ethnic groups. Without ethnic monitoring, organisations do not know whether race equality policies are working and whether they are really offering equality of opportunity and treatment to all ethnic groups. Classification frameworks are needed to enable monitoring and it is important that any classification framework should promote good race relations and allow the monitoring of racial discrimination.
Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 public authorities have a general duty to promote racial equality and good race relations and specific duties in relation to policy, service delivery and employment (for further details see: http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000034.htm ). Under the specific duties key bodies, including the Scottish Executive, are required to publish a Race Equality Scheme setting out arrangements for assessing and consulting on policies and monitoring the impact of policies, employment practices and service delivery on different racial groups. The Commission for Racial Equality has provided guidance for local authorities on ethnic monitoring which currently recommends that they employ the ethnic categories used in the 2001 Census to allow for comparability.
2001 Census Question on Ethnic Group
What is your ethnic group?
Choose ONE section from A to E, then tick the appropriate box to indicate your cultural background.
2.2 Why are we doing this work?
Prior to the 2001 Census concern was expressed by some community groups, particularly African groups, about the ethnicity classifications to be used in the Census. In its 2001 report 5 the Scottish Executive's Race Equality Advisory Forum ( REAF) identified ethnic classification frameworks as underpinning effective monitoring and evaluation of action to eliminate racial discrimination and promote race equality. It expressed concern however that the categories used to define ethnicity were inconsistent and problematic. The categories currently used combine race, ethnicity and geography inconsistently for different groups. The African ethnic identity within the Census framework was positioned under a 'Black' grouping, for example, while Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese ethnic identities were placed under the ethno-geographic category 'Asian'. The REAF report considered that there was a need to identify a new approach to classifying ethnicity in a way that reflected modern circumstances and the specific context in Scotland and enjoyed support from communities.
In its response to the REAF report, and the concerns expressed prior to the Census, the Scottish Executive gave a commitment to working with a wide range of community representatives, service providers, statisticians and researchers, to develop a better understanding of the issues around ethnicity classifications and identify a way forward to allow individuals to define their own ethnicity in an equitable way while providing a meaningful and consistent approach for service providers who need to use the data to inform their planning and policy making. This work has been given further impetus by initiatives such as Fresh Talent that encourage people to come to live and work in Scotland and will continue to develop the diversity of the Scottish population in different ways. In 2002, Scottish Executive Ministers set out a commitment to review the ethnicity classifications to reflect modern circumstances and to ensure support from communities.
Ethnic classification frameworks are problematic because of the lack of consensus about the meaning of ethnicity. Understanding of the term varies and it is commonly used as a euphemism for race. The current classification framework incorporates both concepts of race ('Black'/'White') and ethno-geography ('Asian'). This work aims to move beyond currently held classifications of ethnicity to look at broader issues of ethnic identity in order to reflect the situation in 21st Century Scotland. The changing nature of the Scottish population means that issues of dual or multiple identities will become increasingly important. Many people now have 'hyphenated', 'nested' or even more complex ethnic/national identities 6. People may identify with their own country of birth, with their parents' ethnic origins (which may themselves differ), with their current country of residence, with their religion', etc. For example, Hussain & Miller found that 60% of respondents who described themselves as ethnically Pakistani opted for a Muslim identity as a primary identity over describing themselves as Pakistani, British or Scottish and, when offered options of hyphenated identities, 40% described themselves as Scottish Muslim. Identities are also likely to be dynamic, shifting over time and in different contexts, and children may not identify themselves in the same way as their parents.
2.3 Scottish Executive work to review the ethnic classification framework
The Scottish Executive has begun work to consult with data providers and data users to consider how a new set of ethnic identity classifications may be developed. The aim is to agree a set of classifications which will be acceptable to both data providers and data users and will be suitable for use within administrative systems and statistical surveys. Most organisations currently employ the ethnic identity classifications used in the 2001 Census, but some people have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of these classifications. This work is being overseen by a joint group of Scottish Executive statisticians, researchers and policy staff. A steering group of Executive staff and external stakeholders has also been set up ( see Annex D for more details about membership of the steering group). The Census asks questions about people's ethnic identity to:
- Monitor discrimination; and
- take action to make sure equal opportunities and treatment is provided to all ethnic groups.
In order to meet these requirements, we have undertaken a two stage approach covering research and consultation. If after this work it looks unlikely that we can set suitable alternative classifications for ethnic identity, we may have to decide to continue using the 2001 Census categories (but updated to reflect cultural and population changes in the meantime).
The first stage, a research project, sought to obtain the views of information providers and information users. The aims of the research were to:
- Find out how people want to class their ethnic identity; and
- identify what information is needed and what it is used for.
Independent researchers spoke to a range of different people and organisations to make sure they gathered a range of opinions. This research has informed this consultation exercise and can be accessed on the Scottish Executive website at
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Ethnic_Identity_and_the_Census/Research/MainReport and http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Ethnic_Identity_and_the_Census/Research/Summary .
The Executive held a seminar in April 2005 with key stakeholders to look at the interim research findings and at how we could ensure effective consultation with communities for the next stage. Key points from this event have also been fed into the consultation process. Details of the seminar are available on the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/scotstat/social/ethnicity .
This consultation exercise is the second stage of work ( see Annex C for a full project plan). In this paper we have outlined a possible alternative approach and possible questions for a new classification system. We are attempting to address the current concerns and develop a system which is acceptable to both data providers and data users. Following the consultation, a recommendation will be made to Ministers and the agreed question(s) will be passed to GROS for inclusion in the 2006 Census Test. This test will allow GROS to pilot new ideas for Census questions in advance of the Census proper and will be circulated to 50,000 households in Scotland.
3. Research Findings
3.1 Background to the research
It was important to ensure that the consultation exercise was informed by objectively generated evidence. Therefore research was commissioned prior to the consultation phase to gather data pertaining to ethnic identity and ethnic classifications with specific reference to the Census. The research project was undertaken in 2004 by a collaborative team from BMRB Social Research, Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland ( CERES), the University of Edinburgh and UHI PolicyWeb.
The Census currently collects data on ethnicity by asking respondents to choose the ethnic background they feel best describes them from a list ( a copy of the 2001 Census question is shown above). However as already discussed, there has been much debate about the purpose of gathering data on ethnicity. Issues include the use of terms such as 'black' and 'white'; inconsistencies in category descriptions; and the representation of different communities, particularly smaller communities.
3.2 Research objectives
The overall aim of the research was to inform the development of a classification of ethnic identity; ideally one that would meet a variety of needs. Consequently, the research needed to explore how individuals would wish to classify their ethnic identity ('data providers') whilst looking at the informational needs of those using such data ('data users').
Key issues explored by the research included the representativeness of the ethnic classifications used by the Census and the relevance of these classifications to those who use Census data.
3.3 Research methods
There were three stages of research. Firstly, face-to-face and telephone depth interviews were carried out with 11 stakeholders - respondents with a special interest in the ethnicity of the Scottish population. Secondly, face-to-face paired depth interviews were carried out with 12 data users. These interviews investigated the ways in which data users collect and use ethnicity data, and their reasons for doing so. Thirdly, face-to-face depth interviews and mini focus groups were held with 39 data providers. This research stage asked members of the public to discuss how they define themselves ethnically, why and when they might define themselves differently, and their views on how ethnicity is classified in the Census. Research was carried out at locations across Scotland.
3.4 Research findings
The views of stakeholders
- Stakeholders thought that existing Census data on ethnicity might be better used than it is at present, for instance, to improve access to public services. For example, they called for more detailed, local and up-to-date data to be made available as a supplement to Census data. There was a desire for larger bodies to share data on ethnicity with smaller agencies.
- They expressed a need to connect data from the Census with other sources, so that ethnicity could be linked to other variables like language and religion.
- The ethnic classifications currently used in the Census were described as confusing, inconsistent and inaccurate. They were considered to hide the real diversities within Scotland and prevent people making their ethnicities or 'Scottish-ness' explicit if they so wished. The classifications did little to promote community cohesion and minorities were effectively marginalised.
- Concerns were expressed over the 'other' category in the Census. This was imagined to encompass a very wide range of ethnicities and to relegate new ethnic communities. It was also believed that data collected in this category was not being fully used to refine future classifications or address needs.
- Stakeholders suggested that the Census should include a section on language used beyond Gaelic, particularly to include community languages. It was felt that differences between the descriptions of identity of older and younger people from minority ethnic groups could be better accounted for.
- Stakeholders advised that the concept of colour linked with ethnicity or nationality be removed. They viewed the crude dichotomy of White/Black as unacceptable, and advised that those working on the Census might wish to explore the inclusion of a question on colour in its own right.
- In relation to ethnicities, they suggested that broad regional categories such as European, Asian and African could be used. When linked with additional questions, this would allow multiple identities to be expressed and diversity within the existing 'white' category to be unpacked.
- Stakeholders agreed that Scotland needed to have its own national ethnicity statistics, but that these should be comparable with data from elsewhere in the UK.
The views of data users
- Data users described various ways in which they used ethnicity data which included compliance with legislation; monitoring for discrimination; devising policies to promote equal opportunities; tailoring services; raising awareness; targeting resources and responding to requests from other organisations.
- Confidentiality of data providers was of key importance, but if this was assured, there was nothing to suggest that data users would be averse to sharing data.
- Generally, data users thought that current ethnicity classifications were useful but could be improved. However, many were uncertain about best practice and were keen to see the findings from this study.
- Data users expressed specific needs regarding current ethnic classifications including: a better understanding of white minority groups; a review of the 'other' category; an extension of the list of categories; a review of the relationship between ethnicity, colour, nationality and religion; and greater flexibility.
- Data users provided a range of suggestions for improving the Census. For example, they advised that the Census take a tiered or nested approach, that special care was taken to allow for comparability over time, and steps be taken to separate nationality from ethnicity.
The views of data providers
- Data providers defined ethnicity in terms of background or identity. It was clear that many had not considered the issue of how to define ethnicity in any great depth before. Consequently, their thoughts developed over the course of the interview.
- Respondents generally related ethnicity to nationality rather than to race or colour. Religion, accent, culture and language could also have a bearing, but this was variable.
- The concept of 'colour' was a contentious issue for some respondents. Some saw colour as part of their ethnic identity. Others felt strongly that colour should not be linked to ethnicity, and that to do so could be misleading and stigmatise people.
- Generally, data providers described themselves as having multiple ethnic identities with various reference points including their parents' ethnicity and country of origin, where they were born or brought up, where they currently lived, their passport and religion.
- The fact that data providers referred to a wide variety of descriptions underlined the complexity of trying to establish any kind of ethnicity framework. Some data providers found the 2001 Census categories did match the way in which they wished to describe their ethnicity, but others found that the categories did not capture the level of specificity they wanted or needed.
- Many data providers commented that the way in which they referred to their ethnicity was unchanging. However, a few respondents described developing a sense of increased 'Scottish-ness' over time.
3.5 Issues research raised for further consideration
- Consideration should be given to how issues of colour, nationality and ethnicity should be disentangled within ethnicity question frameworks.
- It should be considered whether the Census is the correct vehicle to monitor colour discrimination and if so, ways in which a question on colour might be included.
- Consideration should be given as to whether the current Census question on language should be extended to record community languages spoken in Scotland.
- The purpose of questions on ethnicity should be more clearly communicated to members of the public in Scotland.
- Consideration should be given to improving the promotion of information about the way in which ethnicity data are being used to enhance provision for Scotland's diverse population.
- Mechanisms should be considered that would enable data collated by the Census to be used more extensively to meet the diverse needs of communities at national and local levels without compromising matters of confidentiality.
- Mechanisms should be considered to assist those who have a difficulty ( e.g. literacy or language issues) filling in forms such as the Census.
4. Discussion of Questions for Consultation
This section details the questions which the Scottish Executive would like to consult on together with some background to these questions. A survey form for your responses is enclosed with the covering letter and can also be found at Annex A. Alternatively, responses may be submitted electronically using an online form http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Ethnicity_Classifications_Consultation/ResponseForm.
Please note that the possible approach set out in section 4.3 is for consideration only; the actual approach recommended for the 2011 Census will depend very much on the responses received to this consultation. Some possible Census questions have been included for consideration, however these are very much ideas and have not been tested on respondents. If responses to this consultation suggest including any of these questions they would still require to be fully tested with sample respondents in the 2006 Census Test. An attempt has been made to highlight arguments for and against different questions.
It should be noted that there is a considerable cost associated with additional questions asked as part of the Census. The General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS) will consider the recommendations made as a result of this consultation alongside requests for all other questions. In addition, the Scottish Executive and GROS will be working with the Office for National Statistics, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency to consider issues of comparability of ethnicity data collected by the three Censuses of the UK. This is to ensure that issues of UK comparisons are considered when agreeing the most appropriate approach for each country.
4.1 Reasons for collecting information on ethnic identity
The research carried out as part of this exercise identified four main reasons for collecting information on ethnicity:
- To describe the ethnic make-up of Scotland's population and of organisations' workforce, student profile, etc
- To enable delivery of equality of opportunity through service provision and development of policy
- To monitor progress in awareness, service provision and discrimination levels
- As an awareness-raising mechanism to enable visibility of the diverse ethnic groupings in Scotland.
When considering options for an ethnicity classification framework, all of these uses must be considered alongside individuals' views on how they would prefer to define their ethnicity.
4.2 Defining ethnic identity
As the research highlighted, different people consider their ethnic identity in very different ways. For some individuals ethnic identity can be multi-faceted, subjective and there is no consensus on what constitutes an 'ethnic group'. For some individuals the country of their birth is the dominant factor. For others, national identity, place of birth of their parents or predecessors or the country where they have resided for some time are most important. Whilst for others their religion or community group are foremost. However, for many people it is a combination of some or all of these factors that defines their 'ethnic identity'.
It is extremely difficult to capture all of these complexities within a single classification system. One of the criticisms levelled at the current classification framework ( see page 6 and 7) is the inconsistent use of area of descent and colour. Some individuals find it difficult to find their place within the categories listed due to not being specifically listed or not wishing their ethnicity to be defined in the way described in the question. One way to help resolve these problems is to try to separate out the main facets of ethnic identity and to ask individual questions on each of these. The main areas to cover would be:
- Country of birth
- National identity
- Area/s of family descent or origin
- Colour or whether from a visible minority ethnic group
- Identification with a community or culture not covered by the other facets.
The research supported an approach of replacing the current ethnicity question with separate questions to cover different facets of ethnic identity, and there is already some precedent for such an approach; the Census already asks separate question about country of birth, religion and language (to a limited degree at present) and since 2003 the Office for National Statistics has recommended that a question on national identity should be asked separately by organisations gathering information on ethnicity.
Given that separate questions on country of birth, religion and language are already asked, the current ethnicity question could be broken down to ask separately about 'national identity', 'area of family descent/origin', 'colour or whether from a visible minority ethnic group', and 'identification with a community or culture not covered by other questions'. This would help to capture the information required by policy makers and service providers in a more consistent way whilst moving away from the confusion between geography and colour in the current classification and allowing individuals to express a fuller picture of their identity.
If a positive response is received to this approach then testing would be required to see whether it is acceptable to respondents in different ethnic groups, i.e. whether it allows them to define their ethnic identity in the way they would wish.
Should several different questions be used to capture information on ethnic identity instead of one question?
If you think the information on ethnicity could be captured using one question can you suggest categories to be used in this question?
(Please consider the issues and concerns covered in this document when making your recommendation)
4.3 Questions on different aspects of ethnic identity
This section considers the approach of breaking down ethnicity into separate questions on each of the areas listed in section 4.2.
The research supported the view that individuals wish to have an opportunity to represent their national identity ( i.e. whether they consider themselves to be 'Scottish', 'British' or to have another national identity regardless of their ethnic background or Nationality as stated on their passport). Including a short question on national identity prior to a question on 'area of family descent/origin' would allow individuals to specify these aspects of their identity separately and might also help to ensure the correct information is collected by an 'area of family descent/origin' question. Hence, for example, an individual could specify their national identity as Scottish and their area of family descent/origin as Italian.
The approach of asking a national identity question before one on ethnic group, follows the current approach recommended by the Office for National Statistics ( ONS) for the collection of ethnicity data in England and Wales (and for surveys which cover Great Britain or the UK). Further details of the current approach recommended by ONS can be found in the publication: 'Ethnic Group Statistics: A Guide for the Collection and Classification of Ethnicity Data':
( http://www.statistics.gov.uk/about/ethnic_group_statistics/downloads/ethnic_group_statistics.pdf ).
Should there be a separate question asking about national identity?
Area of family descent/origin
This is a difficult aspect of ethnicity to define. A Scottish individual could be of Indian descent if they were born in India or if one of their parents or grandparents were.
The testing which the ONS undertook for the 2001 Census identified problems with using the term 'descent' in an ethnicity question as different people answer based on different criteria; some may answer based on their parents' place of birth or go back further in time to 'ancestry'. For example, a person of Caribbean descent could indicate they were of Caribbean descent (based on their or their parent's recent descent) or African descent (based on the descent of their ancestors many generations ago). Similar issues are faced by any other group which has moved from a country of origin and formed a defined community in a new geographical location.
There is also difficulty in simply linking geographical origin with recognised states due to not all ethnicities being associated with nation-states or where countries contain some or many distinct ethnic groups, for example Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda (these issues are considered further in the section entitled 'identification with a community or culture not covered by the other questions').
It is difficult, therefore, to provide a concise definition of family descent/origin, however it is important for policy makers looking to tackle discrimination and service providers aiming to better target their services to have this information in order to identify possible difference of experience of people from different backgrounds.
Can you think of another term that captures the information described as area of family descent/origin?
Categories for a possible question on area/s of family descent/origin
If it is agreed that the best approach is to break down the different facets of ethnic identity and to include a Census question on area of family descent/origin, then this question would need to allow for specification at a detailed level whilst allowing for a sensible grouping scheme. In order to meet the requirements set out in section 4.1, detailed information would be required to describe the profile of Scotland's population and enable visibility of communities. At the same time, grouped categories would be required to provide statistically robust analysis against other factors in order to enable delivery of opportunity and to monitor service provision and discrimination.
One option would be to include tick boxes for every possible country of descent; however this would take up a considerable amount of space on the Census form. As with all the questions on the Census, the maximum amount of form space that can be allocated to any one question is determined by the associated costs and the number of additional questions required. In addition, without nesting countries into world areas, it would not be clear to individuals answering the question which groupings would be used for analysis. Another option would be to leave the question as an open question; however this would be extremely timely and costly for Census administrators to code and again would not give an indication of how the data would be grouped for analysis.
It is proposed that, if an area of family descent/origin option is adopted, top level world areas are defined together with some specific countries whilst asking individuals to further specify their country/countries of descent where not specifically listed. This would allow a detailed breakdown of the population to be obtained from specific answers and would also make clear which groupings would be used in the standard published Census tables.
It is proposed that the countries specifically listed are based on the most populous groups in Scotland. Whilst this would not allow visibility of small communities on the Census form itself, it would allow respondents to identify their descent within larger world areas and to further specify individual countries in order for detailed information to be collected.
A suggestion of categories to use for an ethnic descent question is shown in question 2 on page 22. Shifts in the descent of Scotland's population over time would be apparent from the more detailed information collected and additional countries could be specified on the core list for future Censuses if required. However, the world areas would remain constant. A benefit of a classification based on world areas would be that every respondent would fall within an area or areas of descent.
Other organisations could further group the categories or list out individual countries, as appropriate for their own needs.
Are the world areas listed on page 22 the most helpful or would you recommend a different split?
Many people in Scotland are of mixed descent. One way to capture this is to allow people to specify more than one area of descent. This is an approach used by Censuses in some other countries such as Canada and New Zealand. There are however, known methodological issues with this approach, as some respondents are less inclined to multi-tick than others and it can be difficult to compare and analyse the results.
The Office for National Statistics tested multiple-response ethnicity questions before the 2001 Census and concluded that multiple ticking did not reliably identify people of mixed descent as it was not possible to distinguish between national identity and descent in all cases. Therefore it would be necessary to ensure that mixed descent is not taken to mean a combination of national identity and descent, for example in the case of an individual whose national identity is British but whose parents are both of Chinese descent. One way around this would be to include a question on national identity before a descent question. This is what has been proposed in the questions set out on page 22.
It is also likely to be difficult for smaller organisations to process multi-coded data and this would make it more difficult for them to use a classification comparable to the Census. A way to limit differences in answering could be to ask respondents to tick up to 2 boxes, based on what they feel to be their 'main' descent/s. However it is not known if this would be sufficient for individuals in practice.
A further option would be to allow people to tick only one option and to include a 'mixed' category as one of these options, with an open box for specification. The preliminary research raised positive comments on the inclusion of a 'mixed' category within an ethnicity question, however in the context of a descent question a larger range of people may fall into this category and people may answer on very different bases. For example, some people may relate to world areas ( e.g. African American) whereas others may answer on a country basis ( e.g. Scottish Pakistani or Welsh English). This could make analysis of results difficult.
Both of the above options offer some challenges for analysis.
What do you think would be the best way to capture information on mixed descent?
Visible minority ethnic groups
As the research findings reinforce, the issue of asking individuals about colour is understandably controversial and must be approached with sensitivity. Representatives from communities raised this issue both in the research and at the seminar. The obvious rationale for collecting information on colour is that research and experience have shown that this is perhaps the main trigger for racial abuse and discrimination 7.
However, individuals have extremely varying views on the inclusion of a question on colour. One option would be to ask a direct question such as ' How would you describe your colour?'. This would provide valuable information to monitor and tackle discrimination, however, public acceptability of this question must be considered. It would be imperative to include a brief explanation of why the question was being asked.
If a question on colour were to be adopted, further testing would be required on the acceptability to respondents and a list of acceptable categories. If it were decided to ask an open question on colour for respondents to specify in the way they wished, a list would have to be constructed for analysis of the data, and further research would be required to suggest acceptable categories. In addition, open questions are vulnerable to misunderstanding and costly to process. This would be an issue not only for the Census but for any organisation that follows the Census classifications.
An alternative, and perhaps more acceptable, option may be to ask a question on whether respondents consider themselves to be from a visible minority ethnic group. This might extend beyond skin colour, for example an individual's clothing/dress may make it apparent that they belong to or are affiliated with a minority ethnic group. Again, a clear explanation of how this question should be answered would be required.
Without asking a question which provides information on 'visibility', it would not be possible to establish whether individuals were from a visible minority ethnic group. With regard to the Employment Duty, not asking this information would potentially make it more difficult for an employer to identify what positive action they might need to take in their workplace. The Scottish Executive and the Commission for Racial Equality would be concerned if effective implementation of these duties were to be made more difficult. It should be noted that if a question is asked on visibility rather than colour then comparisons with data collected by the 2001 and 1991 Censuses would be more difficult.
GROS are already considering including a question on discrimination which may include discrimination due to colour (alongside other discrimination triggers which are outwith the remit of this consultation). GROS will be consulting separately on this question. If included, this would capture some information on experience of discrimination on the grounds of colour. Analysing a discrimination question against the answers to other questions on the Census would allow policy makers to examine the characteristics of groups experiencing discrimination. Such a question, however, might be extremely subjective as different individuals have very different perceptions on what is discriminatory. Therefore the responses may tell us relatively little about the reality of racial discrimination and prejudice based on visible difference.
What would be the most acceptable and useful way to ask individuals about their colour or whether they are visibly from a minority ethnic group?
For some people the language/s they speak forms a part of their ethnic identity and one of the reasons for asking questions on 'ethnicity' is to help service providers establish where services such as interpretation and translation are most needed. The current Census ethnic group question is only of limited use in this respect in that it is not known if an individual from a certain ethnic group speaks a community language and/or understands English. Knowing which languages are spoken and/or understood by individuals residing or working in different areas would allow better targeting of services such as interpretation and translation.
Local areas can use the Census ethnicity information as currently collected as a basis for their own, qualitative research on the linguistic diversity of their area, however including a Census question on community languages would provide comparable information across Scotland on the range of languages spoken and show recognition of this diversity.
GROS is already considering expanding the language question currently on the Census (the current question is shown on page 21).
Do you think that the Census language question ( as shown on page 21) should be extended to include community languages?
Identification with a community or culture not covered by the other questions
An additional question could be asked regarding whether an individual considers themselves to be affiliated to any community or culture not specified in the other questions.
Individuals may wish to express that they are a member of a Gypsy/Traveller community, for example. The number of individuals affiliated with these communities is currently estimated by the Scottish Executive however there is backing for more robust data to be collected using the Census. This information would help to enable the delivery of appropriate services.
On the 2001 Census, a number of people described their ethnicity within the 'other' category as 'Arab', 'Jewish', 'Kurdish' 'American-Indian', 'Native American' or 'Maori'. This question would allow individuals to identify with these or any other ethnic background not covered by the other questions.
Should a question be included on identification with a community or culture not covered by the other questions? Should this be an open question ( such as the example shown on page 22)?
When considering changes to the way in which ethnicity data is collected by the Census, it is important to consider the needs of those using the data for the purposes of assessing changes over time or differences between countries, in particular the other countries of the United Kingdom.
It is also important to note that any change to the Census classification system is likely to be adopted by other government surveys and administrative collections and by other organisations for their own data collections, to enable comparability. Some government surveys cover the whole of Great Britain or the United Kingdom, therefore for these surveys any differences between the approaches adopted by the different countries would be an issue.
If a move is made towards obtaining information on ethnicity through a series of questions, it is not proposed that any formula is used to combine these into a 'derived' ethnicity variable. Such an approach might run the risk of placing individuals in categories which they would not describe as their ethnicity. For example, one person might consider their country of birth to be foremost in their 'ethnicity' whilst for another individual their religious affiliation might dominate, etc. It is suggested that Census output considers the answers to each question separately. One question could still be analysed against another, for example to show the different areas of family descent/origin of those indicating they were from a visible minority ethnic group.
With previous Census data
Moving to a system which separates out different facets of ethnicity would have an impact on possible comparisons with data collected by the 1991 and 2001 Census. Some proxy comparisons might be possible by combining information from the different questions, depending on the exact questions which are asked (for example if a direct question on colour is not asked this is likely to be very difficult). However, as raised above, this might run the risk of placing individuals in categories which they would not choose to describe as their 'ethnicity'. GROS would need to make a number of assumptions about the previous year's data in order to carry out an approximate match with the 2011 data. They would also need to test for the comparability of data following the 2006 Census Test to fully assess the level of achievable comparability.
What implications would there be for you/your organisation if direct comparability with previous Census data is not possible?
With the rest of the UK
The Office for National Statistics ( ONS) has responsibility for the Census for England and Wales and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency ( NISRA) is responsible for the Census in Northern Ireland. The 2001 Scottish Census question on ethnic group was only slightly different to the question for England and Wales and Northern Ireland and comparisons were possible.
The Scottish Executive has kept ONS and NISRA informed of our work to review the ethnicity classifications for the Scottish Census. Neither ONS nor NISRA have yet decided what their question on ethnicity will be for the 2011 Census. It is therefore, not possible to say at this stage whether it would be possible to compare data for Scotland with that collected for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whether the Scottish Census ethnicity framework is changed or not.
ONS is carrying out a user consultation for the 2011 Census for England and Wales from 16th May to 5th August 2005. The consultation covers all Census topics including ethnicity. It provides a major opportunity for people who use Census data to set out their requirements and make suggestions for continuity or change, and will be used to help identify topics for inclusion in the Census. NISRA carried out a similar exercise between 20th December and 28th March 2005 and are currently collating the results of this for provisional publication in June. ONS has set up a Census 2011 Topic Group for Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion, to establish user needs for data in these areas and develop questions suitable for Census 2011 in England and Wales. The Topic Group is the main forum for co-ordination and consultation between ONS, GROS, NISRA and National Assembly of Wales ( NAW) on ethnic classification issues. The Topic Group is due to produce a statement of user requirements for the England and Wales Census by March 2006 based on the user consultation. Other tasks for the Topic Group include assessing the impact of differences in the Census questions of the four different countries of the UK, and conducting research into the conceptual basis of the ethnicity and identity classifications in preparation for questionnaire development and testing. This conceptual and questionnaire development work will build on the ONS 2003 publication 'Ethnic Group Statistics: A Guide for the Collection and Classification of Ethnicity Data'.
Impact on other organisations
Changing the way in which ethnicity information is collected by the Census is likely to have an impact on the way in which ethnicity information is collected by organisations such as employers, public authorities, health boards, education authorities, etc. Some organisations rely on information on ethnicity collected by the Census whereas others collect their own information in order to target relevant services and policies or to assess compliance with the Employment Duty.
A move away from the existing Census question on ethnic group may require other organisations to change their ethnic monitoring schemes and the operating systems with which this information is captured and processed. This is very likely to have resource implications for these organisations depending on the extent of any change. However, this must be balanced against the need to capture information on ethnic identity in a meaningful way.
A system which separates out the different aspects of ethnicity would require organisations to ask at least 3 questions - on 'descent', 'visibility' or 'colour' and 'identification with another community or culture'. Ideally an additional question on 'national identity' would be asked prior to the 'descent' question (for the reasons described in section 4.2). This information should allow compliance with the Employment Duty. However, any proposed questions would require to be tested and advice taken from lawyers and the Commission for Racial Equality to ensure this was the case and to advise on an approach by organisations.
What implications would there be for you/your organisation if the Census was changed to include a range of questions to capture ethnic identity?
4.5 Further suggestions
If you have any further suggestions which are not covered by the questions raised within this consultation please detail these in the comments box provided at the end of the response form.
4.6 Data availability and communicating why ethnicity information is collected
Availability of data
GROS would be able to publish a detailed breakdown of responses to an area of family descent/origin question, as detailed both in the tick boxes and open boxes (subject to maintaining respondent's confidentiality). This detailed breakdown would be made available within the standard Census output. Analysis against other factors would then be done using the grouped categories.
Analysis against other factors would be available for more detailed breakdowns of areas upon request, subject to such requests meeting the required criteria for disclosure control to ensure respondents' confidentiality. The detail in which ethnicity (however collected) is tabulated depends principally on the numbers in the smallest categories and the number of areas for which a table with the given detail is to be produced. It may be that, as for 2001, simple classifications are used for smaller areas and more detailed classifications are used for larger areas. In addition, certain tables may be suppressed for particular areas where certain categories either separately or combined are below a given threshold. GROS would assess requests for more detailed data on a case-by-case basis. For 2001 Census information, turnaround has been kept to within approximately one week. Costs, at £20 for every completed hour spent on producing the table, have also been low (zero for tables taking less than an hour). Costs and turnaround are expected to be similar for 2011, if not better.
Existing 2001 Census questions relating to possible facets of ethnic identity (excluding the question on ethnic group itself which is shown on page 6).
Some suggestions for further Census questions relating to facets of ethnic identity
Improving communication on why ethnicity information is collected and how it is used
The research found that all three types of respondent recognised a variety of reasons for the collection of ethnicity data by the Census. However, stakeholders believed that evidence needed to be shown that collection was not simply a compliance exercise. Data providers and stakeholders perceived there to be a lack of evidence showing how ethnicity data was being used. By contrast, data users described several ways in which they were currently using ethnicity data to improve practice. Taken together, these findings suggest there is a need to increase awareness about why ethnicity data is collected and how it is used.
Availability and dissemination of the Census data
GROS will not be in a position to make a decision until a later stage about the mix of national and local output, or the mix of standard and specially commissioned output that will be made available following the 2011 Census. When the topics to be included in the Census have been finalised, if not before, GROS will be consulting users about the output package generally and about particular sets of tables identified as a standard requirement.