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The importance of correctly defining ethnicity

Ethnic classification

The word ethnic is derived from the Latin phase ‘ethnos’.

People can be classified and put into a certain group according to their ethnic classification. They can be seen as being distinct and labelled according to their ethnicity, culture, religion, language, race or physical appearance.

Social scientists call the process by which ethnic groups developing ‘ethnogenesis’. They can be classed as people who have common origins or a sense of them and who posses a collective cultural or racial individuality.

In the UK ethnic classification has only really started to be talked about since the 1960’s with the first wave of large scale immigration into the country. It was originally used to describe those immigrants of a different race whose colour was different from the indigenous white population.
By classifying people you are putting them into a category. There are certain benefits to this for instance the data collected from this categorization can be used by government bodies to monitor the progress of social integration etc.
Typically ethnic classification categories are used in a census or market research study. They help to gather accurate information about certain groups, and are useful in monitoring progress or the lack of it. For instance during the 2001 UK census the following categories were used:

White: British
White: Irish
White: Other

Mixed race

British Asian

Black British



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