Ethnicity describes a collective identity and is based on the assumption that a collectivity has its roots in common ancestry, heritage, religion, culture, nationality, language and a territory.

Ethnicity constitutes an important element of the social world, and for many, a central element of personal and social identity that shapes relationships and that cannot be ignored. Collecting data on ethnicity is challenging because of the different processes involved in shaping ethnic identities, and the subjective, multi-faceted and fluid nature of ethnic identification.

Data on ethnicity in large scale-government surveys has often included one or more of the following categories: ethnic identity, country of birth, nationality, parents’ country of birth, national/geographical origin, race and religion. In the UK a range of surveys collect information on ethnicity and such information is often also routinely collected for a range of administrative purposes. At both local and national levels, this information is vital in building a picture of the circumstances of ethnic minority populations and their relationships to the ethnic majority population over time in order to ensure effective development of policy such as addressing ethnic inequalities. Explore our library of impact case studies demonstrating how our data have been used. Find out how to search our catalogue.