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Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 239–272 | Cite as

Ethnic Classification in Global Perspective: A Cross-National Survey of the 2000 Census Round

  • Ann MorningEmail author
Article

Abstract

Academic interest in official systems of racial and ethnic classification has grown in recent years, but most research on such census categories has been limited to small case studies or regional surveys. In contrast, this article analyzes a uniquely global data set compiled by the United Nations Statistical Division to survey the approaches to ethnic enumeration taken in 141 countries. The motives for this analysis combine theoretical, applied, and policy objectives. I find that 63% of the national censuses studied incorporate some form of ethnic enumeration, but their question and answer formats vary along several dimensions that betray diverse conceptualizations of ethnicity (for example, as “race” or “nationality”). Moreover, these formats follow notably regional patterns. Nonetheless, the variety of approaches can be grouped into a basic taxonomy of ethnic classification approaches, suggesting greater commonality in worldwide manifestations of the ethnicity concept than some have recognized.

Keywords

Census Classification Ethnicity International Race 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author warmly thanks the following people and institutions for their contributions: Kevin Deardorff (U.S. Census Bureau); United Nations Statistical Division (Department of Economic and Social Affairs), Demographic and Social Statistics Branch (particularly Mary Chamie, Jeremiah Banda, Yacob Zewoldi, Margaret Mbogoni, Lisa Morrison-Puckett, and intern Julia Alemany); International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Adrian Hayes (Australian National University); Caroline Persell and Sylvia Simson (New York University); Leslie Stone (Inter-American Development Bank); Gerald Haberkorn (Secretariat of the Pacific Community); Patrick Corr (Australian Bureau of Statistics); and anonymous reviewers. I also wish to thank the attendees at the following presentations of this research: U.S. Census Bureau Migration Speaker Series; Population Association of America; International Union for the Scientific Study of Population; American Sociological Association; and the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch (United Nations) Speaker Series. The initial version of this research was funded by the U.S. Census Bureau Immigration Statistics Branch. However, the conclusions—and the shortcomings—are solely those of the author.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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