Ethnicity Issues

Is ethnicity a variable of analysis in your research?

If you intend to use ethnicity as a variable of analysis in your research it is important to be clear in your understanding of ethnicity and what your assumptions are in its measurement.

What is Ethnicity?
Ethnicity is a social construct, not a biological determinant. Individuals may identify with different ethnicities over time and/or with multiple ethnic groups. Ethnicity is not the same as ancestry or “race”

Do you really mean ethnicity or are you using ethnicity as a proxy?

If your research concerns an area where ethnic health inequities are present, it is important to determine what your hypothesis is in relation to ethnicity. If you hypothesise that the inequity is associated with socio-economic status, then robust measures of socio-economic position are needed. Ethnicity should not be used as a substitute for measures of health determinants such as socio-economic status (e.g. NZ Deprivation Index) or geographic place, as you may then over-control for its effect. For further discussion of these issues, see Jones, C (2001).

How is Ethnicity Measured?

It is important to understand standard methods of collecting ethnicity data.

You will need to consider the accuracy and completeness of ethnicity data collection in your research design and/or in assessing the data sets you use. Please ensure you are familiar with current Ministry of Health ethnicity data protocols. See links below.

Ministry of Health Ethnicity Data Protocols

Definitions in Official Statistics [Census Questions on Ethnicity and Ancestry] Chapter 2 

For other relevant documents see the New Zealand Statistics website.

For further readings see:

Latest papers on ethnicity

For those interested in Māori health research and ethnicity data and inequities five discussion papers have been published, as part of a series considering key issues in ethnicity data, and implications for Māori health. Please visit Māori health website.

These papers were prepared as part of a series of discussion papers considering key issues in ethnicity data and implications for Māori health. The issues were identified from the literature and from fora with stakeholders and data users. The papers are aimed as a resource for those collecting, recording, and reporting ethnicity data in the health and disability sector, and particularly, for those interested in Māori health and ethnic inequalities.

The topic areas include:

Ethnicity data is a key variable for understanding the health experiences and priorities of different population groups, leading to the development of more effective policies and programmes.

These data are also necessary for monitoring the performance of the health system, which explains why the Ministry of Health has an ongoing interest in improving the quality and completeness of ethnicity data in the sector.

[1] Te Ara Tika: Guidelines for Māori Research Ethics: A framework for researchers and ethics committee members Pūtaiora Writing Group 2010