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Global Mixed Race$

Rebecca C. King-O'Riain, Stephen Small, Minelle Mahtani, Miri Song, and Paul Spickard

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780814770733

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814770733.001.0001

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Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK Censuses

Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK Censuses

Are Current Approaches Sustainable in the Age of Globalization and Superdiversity?

Chapter:
(p.213) 10 Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK Censuses
Source:
Global Mixed Race
Author(s):

Peter J. Aspinall

Miri Song

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814770733.003.0010

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses ethnic and racial classification systems in U.K., focusing on England and Wales census classification of “mixed” people. The 2001 Census enumerated a total of 661,034 “Mixed” persons resident in England and Wales, representing approximately 1.3 percent of the total population. The largest mixed group was “White and Black Caribbean” (35.9 percent), followed by “White and Asian” (28.6 percent), and “Other Mixed” (23.6 percent), with a smaller “White and Black African” (11.9 percent) group. This mixed group is now one of the fastest growing segments of the British population as revealed by the findings of the 2011 England and Wales Census.

Keywords:   racial classification, ethnic, mixed people, England, Wales, Black Caribbean, White Caribbean

Can current ethnic and racial classification systems capture the growth of “mixed-race” people in the UK? This question frames the focus of this chapter. In a comparative study of national censuses around the world, Ann Morning (see chapter in this volume) found that states can differ markedly in the ways in which they employ forms of ethnic and racial classification. One interesting geographical finding is that while countries in North America and Oceania tend to use ethnic and racial classifications, European and African countries are much less likely to do so. There are, of course, important historical and societal explanations for such differences. There are myriad reasons for why and how specific countries come to classify their diverse populations in particular ways, and this includes a state’s willingness to recognize and enumerate so-called mixed-race people—though which kinds of people are regarded as mixed race can vary, often arbitrarily, across disparate societies. However, even in societies where there is official recognition of a mixed group, such as the Métis in Canada, such a group may remain largely invisible, especially in relation to more “visible” forms of mixture (see Mahtani et al., this volume). It is simply a fact that, in each society, certain forms of mixedness are more socially salient than others (Morning, this volume).

(p.214) This certainly holds true in the case of the UK. Our focus is upon the England and Wales census classification of “mixed” people in particular, and we examine whether this classification system is effective in capturing the growing diversity of its mixed population. Official forms of data collection on ethnicity are often reductionist, whereby respondents are asked to shoehorn their choices into predesignated categories on a “best fit” basis,1 so categorizing a highly heterogeneous population presents major challenges. While many scholars of ethnicity have argued for its fluid, multidimensional, and socially constructed nature,2 the challenge of the decennial census is to capture the country’s ethnic diversity in recognition of the fact that its classification system and findings will have saliency across government for the succeeding decade. In Britain, it has also deployed measures of religion, national identity, and language to address this complexity.3

A critical examination of official classification systems is important for various reasons, but the growing diversity of the British population makes this issue especially pressing.4 While regional variations clearly apply, the emergence of superdiversity in cities such as London can significantly shape the ways in which “ordinary” people and officialdom conceptualize and understand notions of ethnic, racial, and religious difference, and their significance.5 Complex webs of migration and transit contribute significantly to this growing diversity, and are important in shaping contemporary understandings of citizenship, ethnic and racial difference, and belonging.

Whilst Kibreab has observed a tendency in post-modernist literature to assume that the globalization process has given rise to the “erosion of spatially bounded social worlds” which has then led to “deterritorialisation of identity,”6 studies such as by Waldinger and Fitzgerald indicate that people’s allegiance to place may be multiplied to encompass countries of origin and the host society, thereby creating new connectivities, including transnational forms of identity, multiple forms of belonging, and complex patterns of rights and memberships.7 Caglar argues that a “growing number of people define themselves in terms of multiple national attachments and feel at ease with subjectivities that encompass plural and fluid cultural identities.”8 Where migrants form interethnic unions, the patterns of those connections and identities for their off-spring may be even more diverse.

(p.215) Over the last few decades there has been an unprecedented rise in flows of global migration. In Britain, what we now see is an increasing number of country origin groups not captured by the census classifications. The ONS has estimated that in 2010–11 there were 56 overseas-born country of birth groups each comprising 25,000 or more people in the UK, some of which conceal multiple ethnicities, such as South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.9 Just five of these groups had matching census ethnic labels. Many groups (such as Somali, Filipino, and Sri Lankan) are currently hidden and invisible in “Other” categories attached to the “White,” “Asian,” “Black,” and “Chinese/other ethnic groups” headings.

Another key source of growing diversity in multiethnic Western societies is the growth of intermarriage and “mixed race” people10 (and see Mahatani et al., this volume). Like Canada, the US, and Australasia, Britain has experienced an increasing rate of interethnic relationships and a commensurate rise in the “mixed race” population over the last few decades. The 2001 Census enumerated a total of 661,034 “Mixed” persons resident in England and Wales, representing approximately 1.3 percent of the total population. The largest mixed group was “White and Black Caribbean” (35.9 percent), followed by “White and Asian” (28.6 percent) and “Other Mixed” (23.6 percent), with a smaller “White and Black African” (11.9 percent) group.

The “Mixed” group is now one of the fastest growing segments of the British population as revealed by the findings of the 2011 England and Wales Census.11 Demographers having predicted a “Mixed” population in excess of one million, 1.2 million “Mixed” people were enumerated.12 This represented a growth in the intercensal decade of 85 percent, varying from 80 percent for the White and Black Caribbean category to 110 percent in the case of the White and Black African category. Population projections had, indeed, predicted the “Mixed” group to rise to 1.2 million by 2020, though still smaller in this projection than the pan-ethnic (South) Asian (3.5 million) and Black (1.6 million) groups.13 Revised projections indicate a “Mixed” population of 1.6 million by 2031.

After three decennial censuses, which have included a question about ethnicity (starting with the 1991 census), it is now timely to revisit the conceptualization of the “Mixed” group (and methods of capture) in the context of globalization, migration, and the growth of mixed unions (p.216) and people. Over the last decade there has been an unprecedented growth in the literature on the “mixed race” population in Britain and how it identifies in ethnic/racial terms. In general, there has been little fresh thinking on how we can measure this increasing population.

Both the 2011 British and 2010 US censuses replicated the methods used in 2000/01 in spite of substantial further diversification in the ethnic/racial composition of their populations arising from migration, individuals’ changing patterns of identification, and natural population change. This chapter focuses on the England and Wales Census because the count of mixed persons in Scotland and Northern Ireland has been relatively small and captured by an open response field (as opposed to tick boxes) in the 2001 and 2011 censuses. After a historical review of census development, we discuss what census categories may obscure, as well as reveal, about the British population.

The Evolution of the “Mixed” Category in the England and Wales 2001 Census

From the beginning of the 2001 Census Development Programme in 1994-95, there was unanimous support for including a “Mixed” category, primarily based on the recognition that this was a sizable and growing group: 230,000 persons had indicated that they were “mixed” in the two open response options in the 1991 Census.14 However, unlike the US, there was no “mixed-race” movement in the UK that lobbied the census agencies for the change: the impetus came from users of census data in local and national government. Even in the US the mixed-race movement was not solely a grassroots movement amongst the mixed-race population but was strongly influenced by class, with many of those driving the movement possessing elite educational and professional qualifications.15 The question tested in the 1999 Census Rehearsal was the one finally accepted for the 2001 Census with “Mixed” being captured by the four “cultural background” subgroups of “White and Black Caribbean,” “White and Black African,” “White and Asian,” and a free-text “Any other Mixed background.” Indeed, this test was the only formal assessment of these “Mixed” options.

The overarching term used—“Mixed” (which, in turn, has spawned the descriptor “mixedness”)—neatly side-stepped debates about the (p.217) existing nomenclature, like “mixed race,” “mixed parentage,” “dual heritage,” “multiple heritage,” “mixed origins,” and others, all of which have gained some acceptance in different arenas. While frequently treated as synonyms, the terms reference different concepts (race, parentage, heritage, and origins) and some (“mixed parentage” and “dual heritage”) suggest a background of just two groups. “Mixed race” is the preferred term amongst survey samples of young people and the general population who are themselves “mixed.”’16

Although the Census has used the “Mixed” label, the framework that encompassed the mixed categories was based on “race” in all but name (notably, the emphasis on color in the racialized “pan-ethnicities’ of “White,” “Mixed,” “Asian or Asian British,” “Black or Black British,” and “Chinese or other ethnic group”). The three predesignated “mixed” cultural background categories are also suggestive of a “mixed race” conceptual base in that they all combine the term “White” with broad groupings like “Asian,” in contradistinction to mixed ethnic identifiers utilizing the cultural background options, such as “White British and Indian.”

Other national census agencies that have sought to capture the “mixed race” population have, similarly, eschewed difficult choices about the category label(s) by multiticking. The 2000 US Census used the instruction “Mark one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be” (15 separate tick boxes—including four with free-text fields—being listed in the “race” question). Canada’s 2001 and 2006 census questions (unlabeled) invited respondents to “Mark more than one or specify, if applicable” from 12 listed options, including one free text field. Those who marked more than one were described in tabular data as “multiple visible minorities.” Where a generic label is used, it is frequently “mixed.”17

The 2001 Census “Mixed” Options: Issues of Validity and Reliability

Based simply on face validity—the extent to which the mixed categories appear to be measuring what they were intended to measure—a number of critical observations can be made (and see Roth 2010 on Hispanics in the US). Firstly, the categories primarily privilege wider societal (p.218) interpretations of “mixed race,” that is, mixtures of “White” and one of the minority groups (“Black Caribbean,” “Black African,” and “Asian”). In accordance with this perspective, there is no mixed minority option (such as “Black and Asian”); such individuals have recourse only to a residual (write-in) “Any other Mixed background” category (see Mahtani and Moreno 2011; Mahtani et al., this volume). This has led some to argue that “the four choices offered for “Mixed” do not reflect the multiple sources that define people’s mixed identity,”18 (Finney and Simpson 2009, p. 36), which may encompass ethnic or country origins, religion, and nationality or national identity, and the possibility of multiple allegiances across these.

The rationale, then, in devising these “mixes” lay in the utilization of both the broad section labels and cultural background options used in the census question (see figure 10.1 for the England and Wales question),19 though the “White” and “Asian” groups are reduced to single, undifferentiated categories. Such overarching labels provide a point of access to the longer-term historical processes that have influenced and shaped the nature of ethnic relations, including Britain’s colonial projects in the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and the Caribbean; migration; discrimination based primarily on color; and the structural disadvantages that

Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK CensusesAre Current Approaches Sustainable in the Age of Globalization and Superdiversity?

Figure 10.1. Ethnic Group Question Asked in England and Wales, 2001

(p.219) derive from such broader processes. Census categorization, therefore, has to strike a balance between the myriad unique ways in which individuals may choose to identify in ethnic terms and the use of category labels that have meaning at the population level. Such categories have to build on a broad conceptual base and utilize a set of labels that are acceptable to respondents without burdening them with an overly long list of response options, which can increase the risk of nonresponse.

A second critical observation on the content of the “Mixed” options is the naming of two groups in each category and the use of a duplex (or double) write-in box. These point to an understanding of “mixedness” in terms of dual heritage (or mixed parentage) rather than more complex “mixedness,” incorporating, for example, those children who have parent(s) who themselves are “mixed’. As with the use of broad labels like “Asian,” this approach is also likely to be reductionist with respect to the capture of a complex phenomenon like “mixedness,” involving a trade-off between practicality and complexity (and its potential for respondent misunderstandings). If a critical mass of those identifying as “mixed” are, indeed, in the ‘more than two groups’ category, then this form of categorization may need rethinking.

Clearly, this trade-off is crucial in deciding the content of the classification. The primary purpose of the census is to provide data that is of utility for central government and other statutory public authorities rather than research findings of interest to social researchers. The intent of the census question is to obtain a top-of-head response to what a person considers themselves to be, in terms of an immediate measure of “mixedness” grounded in broader societal understandings of the concept of “mixed race.” By contrast, an approach based on a person’s ancestry (defining mixedness operationally) would capture a person’s ethnicity in terms of their forebears rather than what they consider themselves to be. Data of the kind produced by the ethnic origin/ancestry questions asked in US and Canadian censuses produces a substantially higher count of multiple reporting than “mixedness” in population group questions and measures a different domain. Yet a middle way may be available through multiticking, enabling respondents to select more than two of the current categories if this was important to their “mixed” identity.

Finally, the use and prioritization of labels within the categories merits critical comment. The term “Asian” was used in the classification, (p.220) both in the “Mixed” and “Asian or Asian British” sections, for the first time in the decennial census. The unguarded introduction of this term raises concerns about data quality as it is variously interpreted by the public as referring to people who have origins in the Indian subcontinent and continental Asia. Those who are mixes of White and East Asian (e.g., Chinese, Japanese) or Southeast Asian (e.g., Filipino, Malaysian, Vietnamese) origins may have ticked “White and Asian” or the open response “Any other Mixed background.” Indeed, the countries of birth of the “White and Asian” group were heterogeneous, including 5 percent in the Far East. Further, while cultural background categories were privileged for the mixed “White and Black Caribbean” and mixed “White and Black African” options, those of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi background were subsumed under the “Asian” label, bringing into question the sustainability of this option as a “cultural background” category, and conflating race and ethnicity. Finally, the privileging of “White” as the coidentity—the first named group—may, for some, have triggered associations with White hegemonic culture and the asymmetry of race relations.

While the ONS has indicated that “the categories were based on the written descriptions collected in the 1991 Census,”20 this needs to be questioned as the modus operandi for deciding new categorization. Indeed, the ONS Longitudinal Study shows that less than half of those identifying with one of the 2001 “mixed” groups used the free-text opportunities to identify themselves as mixed in 1991, and only a third in the case of the “White and Asian” group.21 Given these low proportions and the relatively rapid increase in the size of the “mixed” group in the succeeding decade, the use of these 1991 write-in answers to decide the composition of the 2001 “mixed” categories was, perhaps, unsatisfactory.

After the 2001 Census, some of the foregoing critical observations based on face validity have led census users (central and local government and statutory and third-sector organizations) to redesign the “mixed” options.22 For example, 12 additional codes were added by the Department for Children, Schools, and Families for “Mixed/Dual Background” for optional use in the annual school census. These extended categories were to meet the need for more finely granulated categorization, mainly to identify underperformance amongst several groups, which would otherwise have been masked by the broader categories.

(p.221) With respect to the reliability of the 2001 Census “mixed” categories, we have virtually no data at all. Unlike the Great Britain 1991 Census ethnic group question and the US 2000 Census “race” question, no census validation survey was undertaken following the England and Wales 2001 Census. Consequently, there is no systematic data on test/retest reproducibility of the census ethnic categories. Those studies that have attempted to measure consistency in reporting the “mixed” groups in administrative data suggest greater instability than in the White British category.

Trying to Capture “Mixedness” in an Era of Superdiversity

The initial experiment of attempting to capture “mixedness” in the 2001 Census yielded a very substantial body of findings on this hitherto largely unmeasured group. Census classifications were also used in a huge variety of ethnically coded administrative collections by central and local government and in a large number of government surveys.

For England and Wales, the 2011 Census contained an almost identical “mixed” category set as the one used in the 2001 Census. The section label (see figure 10.1, above) was changed from “Mixed” to “Mixed/multiple ethnic groups” and the final open response option to “Any other Mixed/multiple ethnic background.” While an ONS consultation found that the term “mixed” was acceptable to most data users, some argued that it could be perceived as derogatory, resulting in the renaming of the label.23 While the three predesignated “mixed” options remain the same, “Asian” has been redefined by the relocation of “Chinese” from the “Chinese or other ethnic group” set it occupied in 2001 to the “Asian/Asian British” set in the 2011 England and Wales Census. Although a new “Arab” category has been added to the 2011 classification, there is no commensurate “White and Arab” mixed option. Findings from the 2011 Census are likely to provide the key source of ethnic data for governmental purposes until the early 2020s.

The Transformation in Ethnic Diversity

The addition of “multiple” to the “mixed” label in the 2011 Census provides a key to one of the most important demographic changes in Britain over the last two decades: an unprecedented increase from the (p.222) 1990s in the ethnic diversity of the country. This has been driven by immigration (table 10.1), increased population mixing and interethnic union formation, and an increasing complexity in ethnic identification, frequently at the interface of race, ethnicity, nationality/national identity, and religion.24 Large and abstract categories like Indian and African (so-called fictive unities) now compete with those that reflect our individuality and frequent multiple allegiances, such as “Ukrainian,” “Mexican,” “Gabon/French,” “Arabic/Algerian,” and “Punjabi Sikh.”

The census ethnicity classification in its present form is no longer able to capture this level of diversity. Recently, for example, Vertovec concluded that census categories “do not begin to convey the extent and modes of diversity existing within the population today.”25 Hollinger talks of a “diversification of diversity,”26 Baumann of “communities within communities, as well as cultures across communities,”27 and Vertovec coined the term “super-diversity”28 to describe this dynamic interplay of country of origin, ethnicity, languages, religion, regional and local identities, nationality, cultural values, migration channels, legal status, and the processes and practices associated with transnationalism.

Such a level of ethno-cultural diversity could, potentially, create hundreds of discrete categories for data collection. However, it is important to remind ourselves that some identities are more salient than others in measuring and tracking discrimination and disadvantage. For example, little importance in this context has been accorded to mixes within the five main pan-ethnicities. Moreover, not all dimensions of identity are legally recognized equality strands or bases of discrimination. Some sense can be made of this complexity through cross-tabulating person-level information in the census across multiple dimensions: in the 2011 Census language and national identity were added to ethnic group, religion, and country of birth. More attention needs to focus on the kinds of data we need and it would be premature to dismiss the Census.

However, there are challenges. Migration data reveals the emergence of substantial new communities (such as Poles, Filipinos, and Somalis). When subsequent generations are included, some of these communities may in fact be substantially larger. The lack of an obvious location in the Census may become conspicuous as some of these groups continue to increase in numbers. Population mixing between these groups (p.223)

Table 10.1. Estimated Population Resident in the UK by Overseas-Born Country of Birth: Fify Most Common Countries of Birth, July 2010–June 2011 and Position in 2004

2010/11

2004

Country/rank 2009/10

Estimate

CI+/-

Estimate

1. India

694

36

502

2. Poland

587

33

95

3. Pakistan

442

29

281

4. Republic of Ireland

407

28

452

5. Germany

295

24

275

6. South Africa

234

21

178

7. Bangladesh

232

21

225

8. USA

188

19

145

9. Nigeria

174

18

91

10. Jamaica

150

17

136

11. France

130

16

95

12. Kenya

130

16

143

13. Italy

130

16

114

14. China

130

16

64

15. Sri Lanka

129

15

71

16. Philippines

124

14

62

17. Zimbabwe

121

15

94

18. Australia

115

15

112

19. Somalia

112

15

76

20. Lithuania

107

14

22

21. Romania

87

13

14

22. Ghana

86

13

76

23. Portugal

84

13

68

24. Canada

81

12

76

25. Turkey

76

12

61

26. Iran

74

12

62

2 7. Hong Kong

73

12

86

28. Iraq

68

11

50

29. Spain

67

11

51

30. Malaysia

62

11

51

31. New Zealand

62

11

52

32. Netherlands

60

11

42

33. Slovakia

54

10

*

34. Latvia

53

10

*

35. Bulgaria

52

10

*

36. Afghanistan

50

10

*

37. Cyprus (EU)

50

10

74

38. Uganda

50

10

62

39. Brazil

50

10

28

40. Hungary

42

9

14

41. Nepal

41

9

*

42. Singapore

40

9

38

43. Russia

39

9

25

44. Japan

39

9

34

45. Mauritius

38

9

32

46. Tanzania

35

8

34

47. Greece

34

8

33

48. Zambia

34

8

31

49. Thailand

33

8

23

50. Czech Republic

30

8

*

(*) Not in ranking: These were countries not in the top 60 most common countries of birth in 2004, that is, those with an estimate of 14,000-plus.

Source: Population by country of birth and nationality from the Annual Population Survey/Labour Force Survey (LFS), published by ONS, February 23, 2012. Accessed at www.ons.gov.uk/ons/…/population-by-country-of-birth-and-national on May 28, 2012.

(p.224) (p.225) and with the White British majority and other established communities is likely to take place at varying paces and in complex ways, reflecting such factors as the size of the groups, their geographical patterns of residence, and cultural attitudes to interethnic union formation. This mixing will produce a level of heterogeneity in the mixed population that is unprecedented and difficult to force into conventional census “mixed” categories.

In addition to interethnic friendships and hybrid cultural forms in urban areas,29 the rate of interethnic union formation and offspring born to such partnerships will be influenced by changing attitudes to such unions. There is evidence, for example, that such unions may be becoming more accepted amongst second-generation Asians. One might also expect to see an increase in such union formation in areas of high ethnic diversity where no one group predominates, including those between people of disparate ethnic minority backgrounds. The fact that the most common interethnic marriages were between White and mixed-race people (26 percent) and the next between White and “Other ethnic groups” (15 percent) points to the potential for diversity in their offspring.

Finally, increasing diversity may arise from changing ethnic identifications. Some terms may be brought into wider usage as self-descriptors through processes of official recognition.30 The availability of officially recognized “mixed” identities may, in itself, have catalyzed usage and, in much the same way, “Arab” may increase in salience as a self-identity following its introduction in the 2011 Census. Given the increasing recognition of—and value attached to—diversity in policy contexts, more people may choose to identify in their own unique ways when opportunities are present, as in the free-text fields offered in ethnic monitoring.

What Unprompted “Open Response” Survey Data Tells Us about the “Mixed” Group

Nearly all ethnicity data collection in service-provider and research settings has been based on the 2001 Census ethnicity classification. Therefore, the strategies that have been used to capture the growing complexity of the “mixed” population are limited. Our own interest has focused (p.226) in particular on the availability of unprompted “open response” survey data for the “mixed” group, which may be an essential component of “superdiversity” and a population that could embrace multiple allegiances and identities. It might be argued that—where the goal is the accurate portrayal of identity and the capture of its multifariousness—such data best provides a point of access to superdiversity in that it is unconstrained by observer- or researcher-defined categories and the need to prioritize government-mandated groups.

A question on unprompted ethnicity was asked in our recent study of the racial identifications of 326 young (aged 18–25) “mixed race” people in further/higher education institutions.31 The first question on the survey asked respondents to describe their race/ethnicity in their own words (an open response question). Such spontaneous descriptions are valid on their own terms. In support of the findings of the 2001 Census Development Programme focus groups and tests, the substantial majority of our respondents gave a description rather than a generic term only (like “mixed” or “mixed race”). These descriptions varied substantially in length, some combining just a couple of terms (e.g., “Mixed White/Chinese”) and some more extensive involving multiple identities (like “My father is fully British while my mother is ethnic Chinese & comes from Hong Kong. I have fair hair and only slightly Chinese looks. I am always mistaken for full Caucasian. I only speak English but have been brought up in largely Asian influences”).

Overall, 60 percent of respondents named two groups and 20 percent three or more groups. A quarter (24 percent) used the term “half” (e.g., “half Japanese,” “half English”) and a small number fractionalized their identities in more complex ways (e.g. “quarter English,” “quarter Irish,” “quarter Spanish,” “quarter Filipina”). Significant numbers—over a fifth in each case—included the national identity terms “English” and “British” in their responses.

What is distinctive about these unprompted open responses is their heterogeneity and frequent complexity, some combining racial/pan-ethnic terms like “Black,” “White,” and “Asian” with ethnic/national origin terms such as “English,” “Somali,” and “Polish” in the same description (for example, “My mother is English (white) and my father is Sri Lankan (Asian). I was born and brought up in Wales, which is what I consider my nationality to be (Welsh)”). While some respondents used (p.227) Census terms (“White British”) and other expressions that included color terms like “black” and “white,” only 14 (4 percent) explicitly referred to skin color in their descriptions, e.g. “My father is white Irish and my mother is mixed black Antiguan and white British. I call myself mixed race even though my skin is white.”’32

The fact that one-fifth of respondents named three or more groups challenges the “two group” format of the England and Wales 2001 and 2011 Census “mixed” categories, as does the frequent incorporation of national-identity terms in the descriptions respondents gave (as in “English, Welsh, Swiss, Kiwi, Indian, Singaporean. I am of mixed parentage—this is a good thing”). Clearly, it could be argued that this sample of young respondents attending university or college might be more knowledgeable about their heritage and more inclined to declare its full complexity. However, an analysis of 78 unprompted self-descriptions—the words used by mainly young “mixed race” people opportunistically interviewed in public (street) venues to describe themselves—yield similar findings.33 In this “street” survey, the majority of respondents (65.4 percent) used two terms (e.g. “German/Guinea African”) but 16.7 percent used three or more terms (e.g., “English/Greek/Jamaican”). Eight respondents (10.3 percent) used a generic term (e.g., “Mixed”) and six (7.7 percent) a single group (like “Black African”). Again, the sheer complexity of terms, including bicultural labels, a “mixed” description as one of the named groups, and even regional identities (e.g., “Egyptian plus Jewish/Salford plus Jewish”) characterize the set.

Another study had 130 verbatim descriptions (81.3 percent of those who selected “Other Mixed”) given in a survey of over 9,500 young people (mainly 11–16) in Newham (a highly diverse London borough). These were individuals who eschewed the predesignated “mixed” category (thus a residual group), and who provided a write-in response to the “Other Mixed” category.34 This data is interesting in that it provides information on the heterogeneous “Other Mixed” category, our knowledge of which was limited from the 2001 Census findings (in which no ethnic data was available for almost three-fifths of those who selected this category in England and Wales).

Many of the descriptions given by these Newham young people would be difficult to locate in the Census “mixed” categorization (e.g., “African and Russian,” “Bolivian and Filipino,” and “Mexican, (p.228) Bangladeshi”). Indeed, 78 percent named a specific country/nationality in their descriptions (e.g., “Portuguese,” “Congolese,” “Lebanese”). Twenty-five percent incorporated the national identity “British” in their descriptions (e.g., “British/Mauritian,” “British/Yugoslav/Turkish”), 5 percent the term “English,” and 4 percent “Irish.” Again, a significant proportion in this residual category (11 percent) named three or more groups. Clearly, these young people more strongly reflect superdiversity than would an older cohort, suggesting that mixes based on categories such as those in the Census that have historical (including colonial) links with Britain may be of diminishing efficacy as a way of capturing mixed self-descriptions for young persons in areas of enormous cultural diversity. In such areas local authorities and other policy makers may need to consider the use of extended ethnic codes to capture meaningful “mixed” data.

What Is the Scale of Concealed Heterogeneity?

The scale of concealed heterogeneity in official “mixed” categorization in the country as a whole is difficult to answer as we cannot unpack the three closed Census “mixed” categories (‘White and Black Caribbean,” “White and Black African,” and “White and Asian”), except through cross-tabulation by country of birth or national identity (where it is asked in surveys). The “Other Mixed” category is likely to be the most heterogeneous category and the one that perhaps best reflects the processes of globalization and migration. However, nearly all findings report it as an undifferentiated count—as did ONS in standard tables—and therefore of limited analytical value. This perhaps would not matter if the category count was relatively small. Indeed, in the 2001 Census only 155,688 people in England and Wales were enumerated as “Other Mixed,” under a quarter (23.6percent) of the “Mixed” population and the third largest “Mixed” group.

However, 2010 School Census data35 (reflecting a young population) shows a very different picture. Amongst primary school pupils, the “Other Mixed” category was the largest group, accounting for 36.4 percent of 140,290 “Mixed” pupils, as it was, too, amongst secondary school pupils (35.2 percent of the 113,380 “Mixed” pupils). In 12 local authorities the proportion of “Mixed” primary school pupils in the (p.229) “Other Mixed” category exceeded 50 percent, including five London boroughs, and, indeed was over 40 percent in many others and also in major provincial cities as well as a few suburban areas. This is perhaps not surprising given that the highest rates of total international migration were recorded in London, the region with the highest non-UK born population. Also, the school data are for cohorts of young “mixed” people, reflecting relatively recent demographic changes.

In some of these boroughs there appears to be a marked age cohort effect, possibly pointing to the increasing impact of superdiversity. This does appear to be a new phase of migration to Britain, much more diverse and global in its composition and including countries not associated with Britain’s colonial projects. However, it does not amount to a break from the country’s colonial past: in 2009/10 the ten most common countries of birth in the UK included India, Pakistan, Republic of Ireland, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Jamaica. A plausible reason for the utilization of “Other Mixed” is that people with heritages from highly diverse country origins simply do not see the relevance for them or their children of a set of racialized descriptors—“Black Caribbean,” “Black African,” and “Asian”—so closely aligned with Britain’s colonial history. If, as the “mixed race” population continues to increase, the numbers in the “Other Mixed” category rise disproportionately, the utility of the Census “Mixed” categories for routine reporting purposes will diminish and in some London boroughs may have little advantage over a generic closed “Mixed” option.

Are Alternatives to Census Categorization Better at Capturing the Diverse “Mixed/Multiple” Population?

If the open response data are representative of the wider mixed population, then between one in five and one in six of the young mixed-race population have three or more constituent groups in their “mixedness” and between 30–40 percent choose to incorporate a national identity (such as “British” or “English”) in their descriptions. Amongst the younger (teenage) cohort, almost four of every five in the “Other Mixed” group utilize a specific country or nationality in their descriptions. Hitherto, we have juxtaposed two modus operandi for collecting “mixed race” data: categorization as used in the 2001 and 2011 Censuses (p.230) and unprompted open-response questions. While people do utilize the set of four Census “Mixed” categories to describe themselves, their choices are clearly restricted by the categories listed on the form. The four Census categories may also prompt people to identify more specifically than they otherwise might, ticking, say, “White and Black African” rather than simply declaring as “mixed.” All census categorization involves some simplification of an individual’s ethnic choices and it could be argued that the current categorization is fine-grained enough to produce meaningful data but not too diverse and fragmented in its coverage to be untabulatable or too unstable at the subgroup level. Open response, on the other hand, yields descriptions, which have high validity as they are unconstrained by a framework of response options. However, they lack utility for grouping people at a population level simply because the myriad different descriptions do not offer any easy route to aggregation into a smaller set of categories needed for policy analysis.

What are the classificationary options? Morning (see this volume) identifies three ways of capturing the mixed or multiple population in a cross-national survey of the 2000 Census Round (beyond open response): checking off more than one category; a generic mixed-ethnicity response option (like “Mixed,” “Mestizo,” and “Coloured”), and the specifying of one or more exact combinations of interest. Thus, to obtain more detail on the mixed-race population, we can either develop a more elaborate set of category options—a solution that, of course, may result in a poor response rate, due to complexity—or utilize multiticking (a strategy adopted in the US, Canada, and New Zealand censuses).

Our research on the sample of “mixed race” higher/further education students in Britain established the feasibility of using an extended classification (table 10.2) that captures many mixes concealed in the census categorization (such as a breakdown of “Asian” into “Indian,” “Pakistani,” and “Bangladeshi,” the addition of “Chinese,” “Other East or SE Asian,” and “Arab” in those mixes involving “White,” and the use of a “mixed minority” category).36 While this classification would need testing in general population samples before it could be used in other settings (such as government social and general purpose surveys), (p.231)

Table 10.2. Responses to 2001 Extended Classification for the “Mixed” Groupa

Classification

Count

1. Black Caribbean and White

96

2. Black African and White

36

3. Other Black (please write in:_______)b and White

5

4. Indian and White

25

5. Pakistani and White

7

6. Bangladeshi and White

1

7. Chinese and White

14

8. Other East or SE Asian (please write in:_______)c and White

21

9. Arab (or Middle Eastern or North African) and White

24

10. A mix of two groups other than White (e.g., “Black and Chinese”): please write in:_______d

13

11. Any other mix: please write in:e

75

12. A single racial/ethnic group only: please write in:_______f

9

Notes:

a Mapping to 2001 Census categories: White and Black Caribbean (1); White and Black African (2); White and Asian (4,5,6); any other Mixed background (3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

b Examples: “Native South American Indian”; “Asian.”

c Examples: “Japanese”; “Filipino”; “Indonesian”; “Malaysian”; “Vietnamese.”

d Examples: “South American and Mauritian”; “other mixed”; “Pakistani and Arab”; “Black and Venezuelan”; “Black and SE Asian.”

e Examples: “Black, White, and Asian”; “White and Asian Caribbean”; “Half Indian, quarter Russian, quarter Dutch”; “Black Caribbean, Mauritian, and European White-English and Spanish”; “Indian and Hispanic”; “Black, White, and Chinese”; “Bengali Mauritian.”

f This category was included for those with a mixed heritage—as captured in other questions on respondents’ racial/ethnic identity—who wished to identify with a single group, e.g. “Black.”

Source: Aspinall and Song 2013, main study sample (n=326).

it points to one solution where the unpacking of the complexity and diverse composition of the “mixed” group is needed.37

Arguably, a more elegant solution would be multiticking, since it can accommodate a much more extensive range of mixes than the specification of exact combinations (and does not lengthen the ethnicity classification). This option was tested in our research but respondents found it difficult to complete and did not satisfactorily enable them to describe their ethnic or racial identity.38 Perhaps surprisingly, (p.232) the information content (what the response tells us about the composition of the “mixedness”) yielded by multiticking was poor. These findings which indicate that multiticking is not currently a recommended option for the UK were submitted to ONS (in England and Wales) and the General Register Office for Scotland and neither census agency decided to utilize this approach for the 2011 censuses after a further synthesis of the evidence.39

Post-2010 census evaluations in the US also raise concerns about the utility of this method.40 Although multiticking yielded illuminating results from the viewpoint of sociologists and others interested in the phenomenon of “mixed race,” for government purposes the low test/retest reproducibility findings produce data that performs poorly as a predictor of risks. Low reproducibility or inherent instability reduces the validity of comparisons across time, different geographies, and different administrative collections and introduces differential data quality into tabulations that include both multiple race and single race groups.

A final option would be to add conceptually to the measurement of ethnicity in UK decennial censuses and government social and general purpose surveys by including a question on a person’s ancestry or ethnic origin, as have the censuses in the US and Canada. While such questions do not provide a measure of “mixed race” or “mixedness” at a population group level (yielding very substantially higher estimates of multiple reporting), they do give a measure of ethnic diversity. Such questions focus on country or national origins. The operationally defined, origins-based content of the question—asking about a person’s ancestors or forbears rather than what they consider themselves to be—makes the question an unattractive substitute for one on ethnic or population group, yet valuable as a supplementary question on “community of descent.”41 The ONS has prioritized self-ascribed identity rather than a more mechanistic or prescriptive definition of ethnicity based on family origins. However, if the Newham data reported by Jones42 on the “Other Mixed” group—with its very strong focus on country/national origins—points the way ahead, then this approach would have some advantage as an additional measure.

While our research did not include a census-type ancestry question, it did test a question developed by Berthoud that asks the respondent (p.233) for the ethnic origins of his/her mother’s family and father’s family (using the 1991 Census ethnic group classification).43 This question performed best of all the data collection instruments tested with respect to what it told us about the complexity and diversity of “mixedness.” However, as with census ancestry questions, it too provided an operational definition of ethnic group rather than one based on ethnic identity and for that reason was removed in the 2001 Census Development Programme.

Conclusions

Multiethnic states such as Britain face various challenges in the classification and enumeration of ethnic minority populations in the future due to two main demographic changes.44 First, in the new global migration, many of the new migrant groups have no link historically or culturally to Britain’s colonial past, but comprise what Kymlicka calls “polyethnic minorities.”45 Second, a significant growth in mixed partnerships and people, and their increasingly diverse modes of identification, poses key questions about the validity and reliability of official classifications. Understandings of “race” and the significance of ethnic and racial difference are not only changeable across time, but are also sensitive to specific contexts and localities. Understandings of “race” and “mixed race” are moving targets, and thus there is always a potential disjuncture between ordinary understandings and practices “on the ground,” and official measures of such complex phenomena.

Given the recent and continuing scale of international migration to Britain—resulting in an unprecedented level of ethno-cultural heterogeneity that has been termed “superdiversity”—our conventional census ethnic categorization, with its strong association with Britain’s colonial past, may prove less satisfactory in enumerating the ethnic composition of the population. We do not have research findings on the “Other Mixed” group but it has been shown that districts that are ethnically heterogeneous—that have high ethnic diversity and where no one group predominates—encourage population mixing and interethnic union formation.46 Amongst cohorts of young people the “Other Mixed” group has emerged as the largest amongst the four census “Mixed” categories, accounting for over half the population in (p.234) the “Mixed” group in some areas. Open response data has shown that “mixedness” amongst this age group cannot satisfactorily be captured by dual heritage descriptors and that expressions of it are becoming increasingly tailored to a person’s individual experiences, including the use of country or national origins rather than racialized pan-ethnicities like “Black,” “White,” and “Asian.”

Furthermore, analysts must continue to address the interpretation of the ethnic and racial choices made on official forms. Such choices do not necessarily straightforwardly correspond with lived experiences;47 nor do they tell us about the relative salience of ethnic and racial identifications in the lives of young mixed race people in Britain and elsewhere. However, the value of “mixed” categorization in the Census lies not just in providing a count of this population but in the very rich body of contextual information collected in the Census, including that on the demography and socioeconomic position of individuals and, consequently, also household and family members.

Where there is a need for data on the ethnic diversity of the population, new forms of data collection are needed. At a population group level, multiticking probably offers the best opportunity, in spite of concerns about data quality and response stability (further testing of which is needed to improve capture). However, “origins-based ‘groupness’” may best be captured by an ancestry or ethnic origins question of the type that has been asked in the US and Canadian censuses.

Notes

(1.) Aspinall Song (2013)., Mixed Race Identities.

(2.) Nagel (1994), “Constructing Ethnicity.” Song (2003), Choosing Ethnic Identity; Cornell and Hartmann (2007), Ethnicity and Race.

(3.) Burton et al. (2010), “Measuring Ethnicity: Challenges and Opportunities for Survey Research.”

(4.) Aspinall (2009), “Does the British State’s Categorization of ‘Mixed Race’ Meet Public Policy Needs?”; Song (2012), “Making Sense of Mixture: States and the Classification of ‘Mixed’ People,”

(5.) Vertovec (2007b), New Complexities of Cohesion in Britain: Super-diversity, Transnationalism and Civil-integration.

(p.235) (6.) Kibreab (1999) ‘People, Place, Identity and Displacement.”

(7.) Waldinger and Fitzgerald (2004), “Transnationalism in Question”; Favell (2008), Eurostars and Eurocities: Free Movement and Mobility in an Integrating Europe; Song (2003), Choosing Ethnic Identity; Levitt and Waters, eds. (2002), The Changing Face of Home.

(8.) Caglar, (1997), “Hyphenated Identities and the Limits of ‘Culture,’” 169.

(9.) Office for National Statistics. “Population by Country of Birth and Nationality from the Annual Population Survey/Labour Force Survey,” published February 23, 2012. Accessed at www.ons.gov.uk/ons/…/population-by-country-of-birth-and-national.

(10.) Song (2009), “Is Intermarriage a Good Indicator of Integration?”

(11.) UK Census (2011), http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/census/2011/index.html; Aspinall (2010), “Concepts, Terminology and Classifications for the ‘Mixed’ Ethnic or Racial Group in the UK”; Bradford (2006), Who Are the “Mixed” Ethnic Group?

(12.) Aspinall (2009b), “Does the British State’s Categorisation of ‘Mixed Race’ Meet Public Policy Needs?”

(13.) Rees (2008), “What Happens when International Migrants Settle? Projections of Ethnic Groups in United Kingdom Regions.”

(14.) Aspinall (1995), The Development of an Ethnic Group Question for the 2001 Census. Peter Aspinall was the ONS National Convenor for the ethnic group question in the 2001 Census Development Programme during 2005–2009.

(15.) Small (2001), “Colour, Culture and Class: Interrogating Interracial Marriage and People of Mixed Racial Descent in the USA”; DaCosta (2007), Making Multiracials.

(16.) Aspinall, Song, and Hashem (2008), “The Ethnic Options of ‘Mixed Race’ People in Britain: Full Research Report” (ESRC Research Grant RES-000-23-1507). Retrieved from http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ (see “Awards and Outputs”); Aspinall and Song (2013), Mixed Race Identities.

(17.) Morning (2008), “Ethnic Classification in Global Perspective: A Cross-National Survey of the 2000 Census Round.”

(18.) Finney and Simpson (2009), “Sleepwalking to Segregation”? Challenging Myths about Race and Migration, 36.

(19.) As a point of comparison, the 1991 census’s “ethnic group” question contained nine categories: “White,” “Black-Caribbean,” “Black-African,” “Black-Other, please describe,” “Indian,” “Pakistani,” “Bangladeshi,” “Chinese,” and ‘Any other ethnic group, please describe.” The question instruction stated, “If the person is descended from more than one ethnic or racial group, please tick the group to which the person considers he/she belongs, or tick the ‘Any other ethnic group’ box and describe the person’s ancestry in the space provided.”

(20.) Bradford (2006), Who Are the “Mixed” Ethnic Group?

(p.236) (21.) Platt, Simpson, and Akinwale (2005), “Stability and Change in Ethnic Groups in England and Wales.”

(22.) Aspinall (2009b), “Does the British State’s Categorisation of ‘Mixed Race’ Meet Public Policy Needs?”

(23.) The change also reflected a shift in the conceptual basis of the question from cultural background to ethnic group or background. The reasons for the change were not made explicit. Although the 2001 question asked respondents to indicate their “cultural background,” the categories listed are countries or regions of family origin.

(24.) King-O’Riain (2007), “Counting on the Celtic Tiger: Adding Ethnic Census Categories in the Republic of Ireland.”

(25.) Vertovec (2007b), New Complexities of Cohesion, 7.

(26.) Hollinger (1995), Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism.

(27.) Baumann (1996), Contesting Culture: Discourses of Identity in Multi-ethnic London, 10.

(28.) Vertovec (2007b), New Complexities of Cohesion.

(29.) Back (1995), New Ethnicities.

(30.) Peterson (1987), “Politics and the Measurement of Ethnicity.”

(31.) Aspinall and Song (2013), Mixed Race Identities.

(32.) Song and Hashem (2010), “What Does ‘White’ Mean? Interpreting the Choice of ‘Rrace’ by Mixed Race Young People in Britain.”

(33.) Lincoln (2008), Mix-d: UK. A Look at Mixed-Race Identities.

(34.) Jones (2006), Somewhere to Go? Something to Do? London Borough of Newham Young People’s Survey.

(35.) Department for Education. Schools, Pupils and Their Characteristics, January 2010. Maintained Primary and Secondary Schools–Number of Pupils by Ethnic Group. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2010.

(36.) Aspinall (2010), “Concepts, Terminology and Classifications”; Aspinall and Song (2013), Mixed Race Identities.

(37.) Song and Aspinall (2012), “Is Racial Mismatch a Problem for Young Mixed Race Young People in Britain?”

(38.) Aspinall, Song, and Hashem (2008), “The Ethnic Options of ‘Mixed rRce’ People.”

(39.) Office for National Statistics (2008), “Recommended Questions for the 2009 Census Rehearsal and 2011 Census”; Scottish Government and General Register Office for Scotland (2008), Scotland’s New Official Ethnicity Classification.

(40.) Bentley et al. (2003), Census Quality Survey to Evaluate Responses to the Census 2000 Question on Race: An Introduction to the Data. Census 2000 Evaluation B.3.

(41.) Hollinger (1995), Postethnic America.

(42.) Jones (2006), Somewhere to Go?

(43.) Berthoud (1998), “Defining Ethnic Groups: Origin or Identity?”

(p.237) (44.) Aspinall (2009), “The Future of Ethnicity Classifications”; Song (2012), ‘Making Sense of Mixture.”

(45.) Kymlicka (1995), Multicultural Citizenship.

(46.) Feng et al. (2010), “Neighbourhood Ethnic Mix and the Formation of Mixed-Ethnic Unions in Britain.”

(47.) Song (2010), “Is There a Mixed Race Group in Britain?”

Notes:

(9.) Office for National Statistics. “Population by Country of Birth and Nationality from the Annual Population Survey/Labour Force Survey,” published February 23, 2012. Accessed at www.ons.gov.uk/ons/…/population-by-country-of-birth-and-national.

(13.) Rees (2008), “What Happens when International Migrants Settle? Projections of Ethnic Groups in United Kingdom Regions.”

(14.) Aspinall (1995), The Development of an Ethnic Group Question for the 2001 Census. Peter Aspinall was the ONS National Convenor for the ethnic group question in the 2001 Census Development Programme during 2005–2009.

(19.) As a point of comparison, the 1991 census’s “ethnic group” question contained nine categories: “White,” “Black-Caribbean,” “Black-African,” “Black-Other, please describe,” “Indian,” “Pakistani,” “Bangladeshi,” “Chinese,” and ‘Any other ethnic group, please describe.” The question instruction stated, “If the person is descended from more than one ethnic or racial group, please tick the group to which the person considers he/she belongs, or tick the ‘Any other ethnic group’ box and describe the person’s ancestry in the space provided.”

(23.) The change also reflected a shift in the conceptual basis of the question from cultural background to ethnic group or background. The reasons for the change were not made explicit. Although the 2001 question asked respondents to indicate their “cultural background,” the categories listed are countries or regions of family origin.

(35.) Department for Education. Schools, Pupils and Their Characteristics, January 2010. Maintained Primary and Secondary Schools–Number of Pupils by Ethnic Group. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2010.