Academic interest in official systems of racial and ethnic classification has grown in recent years, but most research on such census categories has been limited to small case studies or regional surveys. In contrast, this article analyzes a uniquely global data set compiled by the United Nations Statistical Division to survey the approaches to ethnic enumeration taken in 141 countries. The motives for this analysis combine theoretical, applied, and policy objectives. I find that 63% of the national censuses studied incorporate some form of ethnic enumeration, but their question and answer formats vary along several dimensions that betray diverse conceptualizations of ethnicity (for example, as "race" or "nationality"). Moreover, these formats follow notably regional patterns. Nonetheless, the variety of approaches can be grouped into a basic taxonomy of ethnic classification approaches, suggesting greater commonality in worldwide manifestations of the ethnicity concept than some have recognized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law