Ethnic origin of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on October 19, 2015.


Ethnic origin refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the person's ancestors. An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programmes.


Given that a person may report more than one ethnic origin, ethnic origin is typically analyzed by considering each response separately. Persons who report more than one ethnic origin are included in the response category for each of the origins they reported and the counts for specific ethnic origins reflect the number of responses provided. As a result, the counts for specific ethnic origins cannot be meaningfully summed because the total number of responses given to the question is greater than the total population.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is compatible with the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses", Revision 2, 2008. In its recommendations, the UN states that ethnicity is broadly defined "based on a shared understanding of history and territorial origins (regional and national) of an ethnic group or community, as well as on particular cultural characteristics such as language and/or religion. Respondents' understanding or views about ethnicity, awareness of their family background, the number of generations they have spent in a country, and the length of time since immigration are all possible factors affecting the reporting of ethnicity in a census". The UN suggests a variety of concepts that can be used to measure ethnicity in a census. One of them is ethnic ancestry or origin, which is the case in this standard.

The recommendations further state that information be acquired through self-declaration of respondents and that the respondents should be free to indicate more than one ethnic affiliation or a combination of ethnic affiliation if they wish to do so, and that is the case in this standard.

The UN does not provide a standard classification of ethnic ancestry or origin, but they recommend that, when compiling data, the classification of ethnic groups included the finest levels of ethnic groups, self-perceived groups, regional and local groups, as well as groups that are not usually considered to be ethnic groups, such as religious groups. This is done in this standard through the detailed total responses classification of ethnic origins.


Relation to previous version

  • Ethnic origin of person October 19, 2015 to current

    This standard replaces the recommended standard 'Ethnic origin of person'. The definition has been revised, and a usage note and information about conformity to international standards added.

  • Ethnic origin of person May 08, 2013 to October 18, 2015

    This standard was replaced by a new departmental standard on October 19, 2015.

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