Ethnicity in England: What Parents' Country of Birth Can and Can't Tell Us about Their Children's Ethnic Identification.
Engzell, Per , Parameshwaran, M.
Despite the importance of adequately measuring ethnicity to keep track of ethnic disparities in important outcomes, there is little consensus on how this is best achieved. Different countries apply widely differing standards, seemingly guided by convenience more than conviction. We employ unique data on 3035 15-year-olds living in England to investigate inconsistencies when two different measures are used: (i) ethnic group self-identification by respondents and (ii) information on parents' birth country. The former is currently standard in England and Wales and the latter in many European countries. After having aligned our country-of-origin-based measure to the ethnic categories currently in use in England and Wales, we are able to show substantial agreement across measures, and estimates of disparities in language proficiency and delinquency appear little affected by the choice of measure. We conclude that comparative research using secondary data need not be badly biased due to inconsistent measures if sufficient care is taken in harmonisation.