Stats NZ says race is a biological indicator – but we can choose our ethnicity

While Point of Order was posting news of self-identification being extrended to race in British academic circles, portending a bizarre world in which black can be white and white can be black, Stats NZ was distinguishing between race and ethnicity.

Statistics about ethnicity give information by the ethnic groups that people identify with or feel they belong to, the department explained.

Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation. It is not a measure of race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self perceived and people can belong to more than one ethnic group.

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

    • a common proper name
    • one or more elements of common culture, for example religion, customs, or language
    • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
    • a shared sense of common origins or ancestry, and
    • a common geographic origin.

Ethnicity should not be confused with other related terms, Stats NZ insists:

Race is a biological indicator and an ascribed attribute.

Ancestry is a biological and historical concept and refers to a person’s blood descent.

Nationality or citizenship is a legal status.

Ethnic origin is a person’s historical relationship to an ethnic group, or a person’s ancestors’ affiliation to an ethnic group, whereas ethnicity is a person’s present-day affiliation.

This information was provided in tandem with news that Stats NZ seeks feedback on the New Zealand standard classification of ethnicity.

It is asking New Zealanders for their views on ethnicity classification.

The review prompted Homepaddock blogger Ele Ludemann to post an item headed If they are us we should all be NZers.

She contends it is high time Stats NZ and other agencies seeking ethnicity data started counting people as “New Zealanders”.

Let’s see how that flies during the three-week consultation which began yesterday and ends at 5pm on Friday December 13.

This consultation is the first step in assessing if the current ethnicity classification is fit for purpose, is inclusive of all ethnicities in New Zealand, and is performing adequately.

Ethnicity is a key social factor used with other topics in describing the New Zealand population, the press statement said.

Information collected on ethnicity is used to inform, plan, and evaluate services and policies by a wide range of organisations, local authorities and government agencies.

“We’ve already captured and collated some feedback from past enquiries, but we want to make sure all potential issues have been identified,” data and statistical standard manager Ashleigh Maw said.

Feedback from the public consultation will enable Stats NZ to examine the full extent of all issues to ensure quality and relevance.

“We’d like to have a comprehensive register of all issues associated with the ethnicity classification completed in the first quarter of next year,” Ms Maw said.

“We will then know if we need to refresh the ethnicity classification or if a full review is required.”

A primary purpose of a standard classification is

” … to provide simplification of the real world and a useful framework for collecting and analysing data from both statistical and administrative collections.

The current classification was created in 2005. In 2017, a category refresh was undertaken prior to the 2018 Census.

The consultation seeks clarification around any issues associated with this classification.

 • Visit Stats NZ seeks feedback on the New Zealand standard classification of ethnicity

• See Ethnicity standard classification: Consultation

At Homepaddock,  Ele Ludemann says

”  … this is an opportunity to end the ridiculous category of European as a catch-all for non-Maori New Zealanders of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or northern European descent.     

“European as an ethnicity says more about what people aren’t rather than what they are. European is for people who are not Maori, Pacific Islander, one of the many North or South American, African, Asian, Middle Eastern ethnicities.   

“Ironically, it’s also not for anyone of the varied European ethnicities. No-one from Europe would say their ethnicity is European, they’d opt for something much narrower, like Spanish or even more specifically Catalan or Basque, for example.

“If European isn’t an ethnicity for those on the continent, why should it be one for those of us at the opposite end of the earth?”

Ludemann suggests that, in this age of inclusivity, we follow the USA where people identify – for example – as Afro Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans . . .

“This acknowledges both the cultural and historical factors which differentiate them as well as those they have in common.”

Ludemann acknowledged the widespread praising of the Prime Minister for saying “they are us” when referring to the victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.

“That was a powerful message but it’s not one that’s reflected in official categorisation by ethnicity.

“It is high time that Stats NZ and other agencies seeking ethnicity caught up with the PM’s sentiment and started counting people as New Zealanders.”

That way all the different “theys” would be “wes” and we’d all be “us”.

2 thoughts on “Stats NZ says race is a biological indicator – but we can choose our ethnicity

  1. When government agencies continue to describe New Zealanders of predominantly non-Maori ancestry as “Europeans” it is a deliberate attempt to deny the legitimacy of their place in New Zealand. In the government’s eyes “Europeans” cannot be in any way “indigenous” no matter how many generations their families may have lived here. It’s time to stop this racist nonsense.


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