Unstable Ethnicities: Impacts of Question Wording and Respondent Characteristics

Monica Boyd, University of Toronto
Naoko Shida, University of Toronto

Our analysis shows that question wording in surveys influences ethnic responses and creates ethnic volatility in how respondents label their ethnic origins. We compare responses to the ethnic origin question appearing in the 2001 census of Canada to responses provided by the same individuals to a different question appearing in a post-censual survey, the 2002 Ethnic Diversity Survey (EDS). Approximately three-quarters of the EDS respondents who answered the 2001 census gave ethnic responses that contained at least one match to the responses to the ethnic origin EDS question. Matching varies by socio-demographic characteristics of respondents, by whether Census responses were single or multiple origin, and by the ethnic origin label chosen by respondents in the Census. Matching is particularly low for those respondents who indicated a national ethnic origin of “Canadian/Canadien” on the Census, a feature that reflects the question design on the EDS.

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Presented in Session 175: Structural Influences on Race/Ethnic Identification