The Public Use Of ‘ethnicity’ Statistics

This squib was published in Letters to the Editor, The Dominion, on the 26 May, 2001.  I discovered it recalled in a report, A Question of Ethnicity – One Word, Different People, Many Perceptions: the Perspectives of Groups Other Than Mäori, Pacific Peoples and New Zealand Europeans, a prepared for the Statistics New Zealand Review of the Measurement of Ethnicity in Official Statistics by Ute Walker of the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils Inc (November 2001) It is placed here, for the record, and because I care about these issues very greatly.

Keywords: Maori; Social Policy; Statistics;


Your tabulation of child victims of homicide (May 16) has columns recording the ‘ethnicity’ of the victim and the offender. Some are classified ‘Caucasian’. That is a race, not an ethnicity. I take it that ‘Mäori’ is a race or descent classification, too. Are those for whom, say seven of their eight grand-grandparents are Caucasian classified as Mäori?

How does the classification treat those with Mäori and Samoan great-grandparents? If the notion of ethnicity is the standard one (say, as used in the census) of self-classification, why is no one Reported of mixed ethnicity?

These classification issues are troubling enough to social statisticians. They are potentially inflammatory in public. It would be helpful if the police, who supplied the table, were to state what their policies are on the subject of ethnicity classification.

Brian Easton