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

Major uses of ethnicity data are:

  • to monitor and report changes and disparities in outcomes among ethnic groups over time
  • to monitor the changing ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s population at national, regional and local levels, so that appropriate services may be delivered
  • to estimate future trends through population estimates and projections for Mäori, European, Pacific and Asian populations
  • to monitor the demographic, social and economic progress of, and outcomes for, ethnic groups
  • to evaluate the impact of central and local government policies on the economic and social well-being of ethnic groups
  • to model the impacts and costs of policy changes, and to forecast expenditure on services for particular groups
  • to assist in the delivery of services in a culturally appropriate way and to plan social services which meet the special needs of ethnic groups, and
  • to identify significant communities of interest for liaison and development purposes.

The statistical standard for ethnicity was developed to ensure that ethnicity is collected consistently for all surveys and administrative collections. Data from a large number of collections is combined with other sources, such as the population census, to produce official measures in a range of areas such as education, health, employment and unemployment, income, housing and crime. Unless consistent ethnicity data is available, valid and reliable measures cannot be produced. Lack of consistency across different collections means data may not be comparable.

For all of these considerations the statistical standard for ethnicity encourages the use of a standardised concept, definition, collection, coding method, and output, as given in this standard, to promote data consistency and comparability in all official statistics.

This statistical standard has been developed from the recommendations in the Report of the Review of the Measurement of Ethnicity released in June 2004. This report established the continued need for collection of detailed ethnicity data and the need to measure ethnicity in a consistent way across all official statistics.

Key recommendations from the Report of the Review of the Measurement of Ethnicity:

  • The 2006 Census will use the same ethnicity question that was used in the 2001 Census.
  • Statistics New Zealand will continue to educate respondents, users and producers of ethnicity data about the concept of ethnicity.
  • A comprehensive programme of research into the measurement of ethnicity in official statistics will be completed by the end of 2009.
  • All collections of official statistics measuring ethnicity should have the capacity to record and report six ethnicity responses for each individual, or the minimum of three responses when six cannot be implemented immediately.
  • The method of reporting ethnicity in all collections of official statistics should be self-identification.
  • Responses of 'New Zealander' and 'Kiwi' and similar responses will be classified separately from New Zealand European responses.
  • The practice of prioritising ethnic group responses to one per individual will be discontinued.

The standard has been subsequently amended on the basis of recommendations contained in a 2009 review of the ethnicity standard. The 2009 report addressed the impact of 'New Zealander' and like responses which featured at the 2006 census of population and dwellings.

Classification of ethnicity

The standard classification of ethnicity is a hierarchical classification of four levels. Level 1 of the classification has six categories and is used solely for output. Level 2 has 21 categories, level 3 has 36 categories and level 4 has 180 categories – excluding residual categories. The residual categories are defined in Glossary and references.

Classification Ethnicity New Zealand Standard Classification 2005
Abbreviation ETHNIC05
Version V2.0
Effective date 01/09/2017
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