Intended for healthcare professionals


Current census categories are not a good match for identity

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 19 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1696
  1. Judith Rankin, Senior research associate (,
  2. Raj Bhopal, Bruce and John Usher professor of public health (
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Health Sciences, Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH
  2. Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9AG

    EDITOR—Pfeffer discusses the complexities of theories of race, ethnicity, and culture.1 Surveys in the United Kingdom (UK) rely on the census question that first appeared in the 1991 census (incorporating colour and country of origin2) to define ethnic groups. The Office of Management and Budget's classification is dominant in the United States.3 Does the menu of terms given to people included in such classifications offer a good choice? Using data from the south Tyneside heart study,4 we compared respondents' identification of their ethnicity using the census question, a description in an open question, country of birth, and country of family …

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