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Understanding Ethnicity Surveys: A Guide to Gathering Demographic Insights

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The personal questions may seem intrusive, but demographic surveys are a better and more refined way to understand your target audience.

  1. What do you do for a living?
  2. Which race do you belong to?
  3. Where do you live?

Such questions are examples of demographic information. Asking questions about a person’s age, race, ethnicity, marital status, etc., are all part of the demographic survey. Though these are sensitive questions and people may not want to share such information, demographic questions help business planning a great deal.

An ethnicity survey can provide you background information on your target market and help you design a market strategy to reach your audience in a more personal manner. Ethnicity implies the state of belonging to a group with the exact national, racial, or cultural origin (Cambridge dictionary). It is a culture inherited by a person living in that society.

In business planning, a researcher can categorize the responses. These responses can be used to compare the distribution of ethnic groups present in the target market. Furthermore, the information can help analyze the ethnic background and how it can influence the audience’s decision.

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Where to use Ethnicity Surveys?

Ethnicity survey questions can help determine how a market plan can influence the target market. It can give a broad picture of what may work and what may not. Ethnicity as a clear indication of social science information plays a crucial role in the field. However, in business research as well, ethnicity surveys can be of advantage.

Setting up price and determining promotional methods based on the likes and needs can be deduced with ethnicity information. For example, a person raised in mixed-race can respond to social research surveys differently than a person raised in a single ethnicity.

Market and business research, social science and academic research, health, non-profit programs, and other similar fields can gain more insight by conducting ethnicity surveys. With ethnicity surveys, a researcher can prevent any situation that can cause discomfort for the audience. Moreover, cultural bias can also play a role in market strategy.

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Asking Ethnicity Survey Questions

While there is no broad distinction between ethnicity and race, it is still essential for a researcher to understand the minor difference.

Ethnicity, as mentioned above, implies the behavior and attitude one learns from cultures, traditions, and customs of the society they live in or from a different region of the world. You can choose to belong to an ethnic group or reject one based on your choice of belief.

In the United States, there are five categories of race and two categories for ethnicity.

  • Race
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Ethnicity
  • Hispanic or Latino or Spanish Origin
  • Not Hispanic or Latino or Spanish Origin

The race is described by a person’s facial features, hair color, skin complexion, etc., which cannot define his ethnicity. Ethnicity is the tradition, custom, and culture they enjoy and celebrate.

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How to ask Ethnicity Questions in your survey?

An ethnicity question followed by a question about race or included in a race question options may prove to be a careful approach. Responders may not want to disclose their ethnicity or race because such topics are sensitive. Hence, providing the choice not to reveal is also a better way to prevent any issues. These can be done in person or via online surveys.

Following the example of the US census bureau, you can draft your questionnaire for the ethnicity survey.

Q. What is your ethnicity?

    • Hispanic or Latino or Spanish Origin
    • Not Hispanic or Latino or Spanish Origin

Q. What is your racial background?

    • American Indian or Alaska Native
    • Asian
    • Black or African American
    • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
    • White

Q. Which origin do you identify with?

    • Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish
    • Not Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish
    • Other
    • Prefer not to disclose

Q. What race or ethnicities do you identify with?

    • White/European
      • White
      • North European
      • South European
      • East European
      • West European
    • American
      • Latin American
      • Native American
      • Hispanic
    • Other (Please Specify)
    • Two or more (Please Specify)
    • Prefer not to say

Researchers, as well as the respondents, proffer a comprehensive questionnaire including more options. Additionally, the choice of not also disclosing open-ended questions asking to specify other ethnicities not mentioned in the list makes the survey inclusive.

Nowadays, researchers are trying to come up with ways to avoid making the participants uncomfortable while addressing ethnicity surveys. Also, they are trying to make it inclusive so that no ethnic or racial group feels isolated.

Points to focus while writing Ethnicity Survey Questions

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More options

It is vital in online surveys to let the audience choose more than one option when there is limited choice. Using radio buttons instead of checkboxes can force the responder to select only one option. Such a survey format excludes multiracial or multi-ethnic people when people don’t identify with the given list. Moreover, the option of “other” in a limited list can lead to inaccurate information.

Survey goal

Every survey begins after a target is determined. If the survey’s expected objective does not necessarily need ethnicity questions, it is better to avoid them. People may feel offended and uncomfortable answering such questions because of societal perception. Moreover, limited options can also risk the survey if the responders refuse to continue.

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Mindful of what to ask

Phrasing the questions respectfully is also very crucial in an ethnicity survey. Ethnicity is a matter of personal identity, and as a researcher, you may not want to irk them negatively. It is essential to build a comfortable flow in a demographic survey to ensure that the responder answers personal questions with no restraint.

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If you are conducting a broad demographic survey, it is always a good idea to make the survey anonymous. Participants may feel reluctant to give personal information like race and ethnicity. In such cases where the identity is not required, you can make the survey anonymous.

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