Most nations collect a variety of census data and each country has its own methods to do so. In most regions of the world there are privacy laws in place which are designed to help protect individuals from entities who want to collect and process data such as ethnic information. However, this type of data is not usually totally prohibited from being collected, but rather just limited since each country has its own set of “exceptions” that allow the collection and processing of ethnic data. The goal is to protect each individual’s right to privacy while allowing some “safe” entities access to ethnic information.

Where do Entities Collect Ethnic Data?

There are several sources which collect this type of data such as:

  • Official Statistics
  • Research and Surveys
  • Complaints Data

Most regions collect such information to store with their official socio-economic information and statistical data. This might include administrative records, data taken from official surveys and census data. There are also times when various surveys will need ethnic information such as for the purposes of research, attitude surveys or sociological surveys. And when complaints are filed such as a discrimination complaint, particularly those which allege race or ethnic discrimination.

What about census data?

Many countries use disaggregated data which includes ethnic group on the forms. They may also use other fields that seem to violate the citizen’s privacy such as race, religion, and even language. In the vast majority of instances, the questions about race, religion and ethnic background are optional and are not required of the participant. Sometimes the fields are left open and other forms allow participants to tick the question which applies mot to them but they are typically always optional. Because it is left as an optional question, most governments allow the questions to remain as part of the census.