Ethnic group

Mnemonic (reference code): ETHNICID_S

Type: Primary variable

Definition: Ethnic group classifies people according to their own perceived ethnic group and cultural background.

Applicability: Person

Classification: The Ethnicity question has 6 broad categories from which the user would select one and then pick a specific ethnicity within that category, or fill in the text box underneath whilst ticking the “other” box. Responses are assigned codes based on the ethnicity classification codes.

The categories in this classification may have been combined within the tables based on the Ethnic Group hierarchy (Excel 279 Kb download)

Not applicable category (X) comprises: Schoolchildren and full-time students living away from home during term time.

Source Question:

Image of Scottish question 15 from 2011

2011 Question

Reason for asking: This information helps public bodies meet statutory obligations relating to race equality. It is also used for resource allocation and to develop and monitor policy on improving the life-chances for disadvantaged groups, including many ethnic minority groups.

The statistics provide a better understanding of communities and are used for the government-wide race equality and community cohesion strategy, which seeks to improve race equality outcomes in areas such as housing, education, health & Criminal Justice for all groups across society.

Additionally, the Ministry of Defence uses the information to provide a benchmark against which to measure ethnic minority recruitment and representation in the armed forces.

England & Wales (2011) and Scotland (2001) comparisons:

            Q16 England and Wales 2011 questionnaire  Image of Scottish question 15 from 2001

        England & Wales Question                                     2001 Question

Changes to the Question:

  • Colour terms “White” and “Black” are retained, because testing showed that an ethnic classification based only on geography can cause confusion
  • Under the “White” category, new tick boxes are provided for “English”, “Welsh”, “Northern Irish”, “British”, “Gypsy/Traveller” and “Polish”
  • The “Mixed” category is re-termed “Mixed or Multiple Ethnic Groups”
  • The “Black, Black Scottish or Black British” category is re-termed “African, Caribbean or Black”. A new tick box is added for “Black, Black Scottish or Black British” to give respondents the option to identify in this way if they wish. People who do not wish to identify as “Black” will not be required to do so and will be able to choose an “African, African Scottish or African British” or “Caribbean, Caribbean Scottish or Caribbean British” tick box or to write-in their response
  • Tick boxes under the “Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British” and “African, Caribbean or Black” category are re-worded to add references to “Scottish” and “British” e.g. “Indian, Indian Scottish or Indian British”, “African, African Scottish or African British”
  • A tick box is added in the “Other Ethnic Group” category for people who are “Arab”


To see which of our published standard, additional and commissioned tables use this variable please use the Table Index.