Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Changing ethnicity

Something that we need to watch in our statistical analyses: ethnicity can 'change' over time. During the course of a longitudinal study of New Zealand ethnicity, it was found that some people changed their ethnicity at least once if not twice during the duration.

By ethnicity in this instance meant that they favoured a particular ethnic group over another, or a mix of ethnicities. In part this is a result of social change and the acceptability of being something other than what you’d been brought up to be.

However, it means that statistical figures, whether they be Census figures or ones taken in other situations, can be more untrustworthy than we think when viewed over a longer period.

In Canada, for example, Guimond (2006) found that the census count of the population with aboriginal origin went from 711,000 to 1,102,000 persons, with a large part of this growth occurring between 1986 and 1991. He noted that this fast growth could not be explained by natural and migratory increases alone, and that much ethnic mobility was occurring. (Pg 2 of the report)

There may not be such extreme ‘growth’ here, but certainly the possibilities of change are worth bearing in mind.

Photo by mac steve

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