The determinants of stable ethnic and religious identity 1991 - 2001 - 2011

Ludi Simpson, Bridget Byrne, James Nazroo, Ken Clarke, Laurence Brown, Meenakshi Parameshwaran and Nissa Finney, University of Manchester, Stephen Jivraj, University College London and Sian Bradford, Office for National Statistics

(Project no. 401002)

When the census form asks each person to declare an ethnic group it gives no guidance, emphasising that ethnic group is part of each individual’s subjective choice of identity. There is no ‘accurate answer’. However, the reliability of the question is important: to what extent do we choose the same ethnic group each time we are asked? If we change, is this a conscious choice? Is it a response to changes in the question’s categories? To what extent is instability more random and to be expected even over shorter periods than a decade, because for some people there is more than one appropriate category?

This project aims to to establish the nature and extent of individuals’ change in recorded ethnicity and religion, from one census to the next. It will estimate a transition matrix from ethnic group in the 1991 census to ethnic group in the 2001 census and to ethnic group in the 2011 Census, and a transition matrix from religion in the 2001 Census to religion in the 2011 Census.

The project will repeat and develop the analyses of linked ethnic group from 1991-2001. The results showed considerable change over a decade; a quarter of those who ticked African in 1991, chose a different category in 2001, while far fewer than one half of those who ticked an ‘Other’ category in 1991, ticked the same category in 2001. Details of those results are here.

The current study focuses on change in ethnic identity from 2001 to 2011, when there were fewer changes to the Census question on ethnic group, and an unchanged question on religion. However, there was a political focus on religious affiliation as well as a substantial increase in those declaring no religion in the Census. We will examine the determinants of stability in ethnic and religious identity, by relating stability (and instability) to country of birth, age, national identity and changes in individual and household circumstances.

The results will help to guide users of the census data on the most reliable correspondence between 2001 and 2011 Census categories, and the reliability of each individual category. It will help to advise on the most reliable treatment of microdata records (SARs, LS), especially where ethnicity or religion has been imputed. It will explore the nature of Arab and Gypsy/Irish Traveller, in terms of what ethnic groups were previously chosen by those now adopting these new categories.

The project and the plausibility of its results will help to quality assure the Longitudinal Study dataset before it is finalised for general use.

Page last modified on 17 mar 15 12:37 by Joanne Tomlinson