Categories and Group Identities

Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship book series (MDC)


This chapter addresses a number of themes associated with categorisation and group identities. Firstly, census practices are considered with respect to the ethnic group categorisation of Black Africans in the 1991, 2001, and 2011 censuses, what we can learn from census practices in other countries, and approaches to categorising Black Africans in future censuses and surveys. The chapter next examines emerging patterns of national identity as an identity dimension added to the census in 2011, including identity and belonging in Britain and transnational identities. Religion, language, and other identity dimensions are then addressed. Finally, a number of overarching themes relating to ethnic group identity are explored: stability and change in ethnic group identity; group membership and fuzzy boundaries with respect to who is Black African; the acceptability of a colour-based term at the intersection of social categorisation and group identification; how Black Africans identify themselves without prompting by a classification; the concepts of ‘Africanness’ versus ‘blackness’ in categories and group identities; and the concealed heterogeneity in the ‘Black African’ collectivity.


National Health Service National Identity Asylum Seeker Decennial Census Main Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agbetu, T. (2004). Letter, The Ligali Organisation, to Richard Alldritt, Statistics Commission, January 12, 2004. African British Identity. Retrieved from
  2. Agyemang, C., Bhopal, R., & Bruijnzeels, M. (2005). Negro, Black, Black African, African Caribbean, African American or what? Labelling African origin populations in the health arena in the 21st century. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59, 1014–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. AHPN (African HIV Policy Network). (2007). UK website. Retrieved from
  4. Aspinall, P. J. (2000). The new 2001 Census question set on cultural characteristics: Is it useful for the monitoring of the health status of people from ethnic groups in Britain. Ethnicity & Health, 5(1), 33–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aspinall, P. J. (2007a). Language ability: A neglected dimension in the profiling of populations and health service users. Health Education Journal, 66(1), 90–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aspinall, P. J. (2007b). Is it time to abandon colour categories for ethnic groups. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 61, 91.Google Scholar
  7. Baker, P., & Eversley, J. (Eds.). (2000). Multilingual capital. London: Battlebridge Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Barth, F. (1969). Ethnic groups and boundaries. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  9. Bashford, J., Buffin, J., & Patel, K. (2003) The Department of Health’s drug misuse needs assessment project. Community engagement. Report 2: The findings. Preston, England: Centre for Ethnicity and Health, University of Central Lancashire.Google Scholar
  10. Bhopal, R. (2004). Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: For reflection and debate. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 58, 441–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blacknet, UK. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  12. Bloch, A. (2008). Zimbabweans in Britain: Transnational activities and capabilities. Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 34(2), 287–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boatswain, S. J., & Lalonde, R. N. (2000). Social identity and preferred ethnic/racial labels for Blacks in Canada. Journal of Black Psychology, 26(2), 216–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bobo, L. (1993). Report of Rapporteurs. In Statistics Canada & US Bureau of the Census (Eds.), Challenges of measuring an ethnic world: Science, politics, and reality. Proceedings of the Joint Canada-United States Conference on the Measurement of Ethnicity, April 1–3, 1992. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  15. Bulmer, M. (1996). The ethnic group question in the 1991 Census of population. In D. Coleman & J. Salt (Eds.), Ethnicity in the 1991 Census of population. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  16. Butz, W. P., Goldmann, G. J., & Lapham, S. (1993). Introduction. In Statistics Canada & US Bureau of the Census (Eds.), Challenges of measuring an ethnic world: Science, politics, and reality. Proceedings of the Joint Canada-United States Conference on the Measurement of Ethnicity, April 1–3, 1992. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  17. Cattell, M. G. (1997). The discourse of neglect: Family support for the elderly in Samia. In T. S. Weisner, C. Bradley, & P. L. Kilbride (Eds.), African families and the crisis of social change. Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  18. Chinouya, M. (2010). Maintaining transnational families: HIV positive Zimbabwean women’s narratives of obligation and support. In J. McGregor & R. Primorac (Eds.), Zimbabwe’s new diaspora: Displacement and the cultural politics of survival. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  19. Chinouya, M., Ssanyu-Sseruma, W., & Kwok, A. (2003). The SHIBAH report: A study of the sexual health issues affecting Black Africans living with HIV in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. London: Health First.Google Scholar
  20. Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2005). Children in need guidance 2005: Annex B. Ethnicity and religion categories. London: DfES. Retrieved from
  21. Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2006a). Final key list of extended ethnic groups. Retrieved from
  22. Department for Education and Skills (DfES). (2006b). Ethnicity and education. The evidence on minority ethnic pupils aged 5-16. London: Department for Education and Skills.Google Scholar
  23. Department of Health. (2005). HIV and AIDS in African communities: A framework for better prevention and care. London: Department of Health, National Aids Trust, & African HIV Policy Network.Google Scholar
  24. Dodds, C., Hickson, F., Weatherburn, P., Reid, D., Hammond, G., Jessup, K., et al. (2008). BASS Line 2007 survey: Assessing the sexual HIV prevention needs of African people in England. London: Sigma Research.Google Scholar
  25. Ekwe-Ekwe, H. (2012). What exactly does ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ mean? Pambazuka News, 566. Retrieved from
  26. Elam, G., Chinouya, M., & The Joint Health Surveys Unit. (2000). Feasibility study for health surveys among Black African populations living in the UK: Stage 2—Diversity among Black African communities. London: Department of Health.Google Scholar
  27. Elam, G., McMunn, A., Nazroo, J., Apwonyoke, M., Brookes, M., Chinouya, M., et al. (2001). Feasibility study for health surveys among Black African people living in England. Final report. London: Department of Health.Google Scholar
  28. Eversley, J., Mehmedbegovic, D., Sanderson, A., Tinsley, T., von Ahn, M., & Wiggins, R. D. (2010). Language capital: Mapping the languages of London’s schoolchildren. London: The National Centre for Languages (CILT).Google Scholar
  29. Finch, J., & Mason, J. (1993). Negotiating family responsibilities. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. General Register Office for Scotland. (2006). 2006 Census test forms. Edinburgh, Scotland: GRO(S). Retrieved from
  31. Harrison, F. V. (1994). Racial and gender inequalities in health and health care. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 8(1), 90–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hickman, M., Crowley, H., & Mai, N. (2008). Immigration and social cohesion in the rhythms and realities of everyday life. York, England: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  33. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). (2004). Equality and diversity monitoring in higher education institutions: A guide to good practice. Good practice April 2004/14. London: HEFCE.Google Scholar
  34. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). (2007b). Students in higher education institutions 2004/5 & 2005/6. Cheltenham, England: HESA.Google Scholar
  35. Holloway, L. (2007). Black is my colour. London: The 1990 trust. Black Information Link. Retrieved from
  36. Homes, A., & Murray, L. (2008). Cognitive question testing Scotland’s Census ethnicity classification. Research findings no. 2/2008. Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Government Social Research.Google Scholar
  37. Hubbard, M., & Haines, L. (2004). A national programme of neonatal audit: Report of a feasibility study. London: Department of Health, Healthcare Commission, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.Google Scholar
  38. Krieger, N., Williams, D., & Zierler, S. (1999). “Whiting out” white privilege will not advance the study of how racism harms health. American Journal of Public Health, 89(5), 782–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kyambi, S. (2005). Beyond Black and White: Mapping new immigrant communities. London: IPPR.Google Scholar
  40. Levitt, P. (2013). A new social contract: Social welfare in an era of transnational migration. Tikkun, 3, 44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ligali Media Network. (2005). African British identity tops polls. Retrieved April 30, 2005, from
  42. Lorde, A. (1984). Age, race, class, and sex: Women redefining difference. In A. Lorde (Ed.), Sister outsider. New York: Crossing Points.Google Scholar
  43. Mamdani, M. (2001). Beyond settler and native as political identities: Overcoming the political legacy of colonialism. In O. Enwezor (Ed.), The short century: Independence and liberation movements in Africa (pp. 1945–1994). Munich, Germany: Prestel.Google Scholar
  44. Mateos, P. (2004). Names, ethnicity and populations. Tracing identity in space. Berlin, Germany: Springer.Google Scholar
  45. Mercer, C., & Page, B. (2010). African home associations in Britain: Between political belonging and moral conviviality. African Diaspora, 3(1), 110–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mitton, L. (2011). The languages of Black Africans in England. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32(2), 151–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mitton, L., & Aspinall, P. J. (2010). Black Africans in England: A diversity of integration experiences. In J. Stillwell & M. van Ham (Eds.), Ethnicity and integration: Understanding population trends and processes (Vol. 3, pp. 179–202). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mitton, L., & Aspinall, P. J. (2011, January). Black Africans in the UK: Integration or segregation? Research findings. Understanding Population trends and Processes [UPTAP]/ESRC.Google Scholar
  49. Nazroo, J. (2005). A longitudinal survey of ethnic minorities: Focus and design. Final report to the ESRC and ONS. London: UCL (Department of Epidemiology & Public Health).Google Scholar
  50. Ndofor-Tar, C., Hickson, F., Weatherburn, P., Amamoo, N., Majekodunmi, Y., Robinson, F., et al. (2000). Capital assets: A community research intervention by the African Forum in Redbridge and Waltham Forest (London). London: Sigma Research.Google Scholar
  51. NHS Information Authority. (2001). DSC notice: 02/2001. CDS, HES & workforce: Ethnic data. Finalised coding frame. Birmingham, England: NHS Information Authority.Google Scholar
  52. NHS Perinatal Institute. (2004). Maternity core data index. Data item, basis, explanation and values. Birmingham, England: NHS Perinatal Institute.Google Scholar
  53. Nwajiaku-Dahou, K. N. (2013). Being and becoming ethnic in Europe and Africa: State and politics of recognition in Nigeria, France and the UK (ESRC End of Award Report, RES-063-27-0136). Swindon, England: ESRC.Google Scholar
  54. Nzira, V. (2011). Social care with African families in the UK. Abingdon, England: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Office for National Statistics. (2003). Ethnic group statistics. A guide for the collection and classification of ethnicity data. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  56. Office for National Statistics. (2006a). A guide to comparing 1991 and 2001 Census ethnic group data. London: ONS.Google Scholar
  57. Office for National Statistics. (2006b). Focus on ethnicity and religion. London: Office for National Statistics and Basingstoke/Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  58. Office for National Statistics. (2006c). Commissioned table C0644. Religion by detailed country of birth. Crown Copyright reserved.Google Scholar
  59. Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2008). Equality impact assessment. Ethnicity, national identity, language and religion question development. 2011 Census in England and Wales. London: ONS.Google Scholar
  60. Office for National Statistics. (2009, March). Information paper. Deciding which tick boxes to add to the ethnic group question in the 2011 England and Wales Census. London: ONS.Google Scholar
  61. Office for National Statistics. (2013a, January). 2011 Census variable and classification information: Part 6. London: ONS.Google Scholar
  62. Office for National Statistics. (2013b, July 17). Ethnic variations in general health and unpaid care provision, 2011. London: ONS.Google Scholar
  63. Office for National Statistics. (2014a). Beyond 2011: Statistical research update (M13). London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  64. Office for National Statistics. (2014b, June 24). 2011 Census analysis: How do living arrangements, family type and family size vary in England and Wales? London: ONS.Google Scholar
  65. Office for National Statistics. (2014c, November 4). 2011 Census analysis: Social and economic characteristics by length of residence of migrant populations in England and Wales. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  66. Office for National Statistics and Welsh Assembly Government. (2007). Census advisory group for Wales. Ethnicity testing in Wales by the Welsh Assembly Government. CAGW(07) 02. Cardiff, Wales: Welsh Assembly Government.Google Scholar
  67. Onyeani, C. (2009). Contemptousness of Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from
  68. OPCS. (1980). Tests of an ethnic group question. OPCS monitor CEN 80/2. London: Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.Google Scholar
  69. Parekh, B. (2000). The future of multi-ethnic Britain. The Parekh report. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  70. Petersen, W. (1987). Politics and the measurement of ethnicity. In W. Alonso & P. Starr (Eds.), The politics of numbers. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  71. Pissarra, M. (2010). The luggage is still labelled. Third Text, 18(2), 183–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Platt, L., Simpson, L., & Akinwale, N. (2005). Stability and change in ethnic groups in England and Wales. Population Trends, 121, 35–46.Google Scholar
  73. Prewitt, K. (2013). What is your race? The Census and our flawed efforts to classify Americans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Refugee Council. (2004). The Refugee Council’s response to the Government’s consultation document published in July 2004: “Integration matters: A national strategy for refugee integration”. London: Refugee Council.Google Scholar
  75. Sadler, K., Fenton, K. F., Elam, G., McGarrigle, C., Mercey, D., & Davidson, O. (2005). Mayisha II main study report: Assessing the feasibility and acceptability of community based prevalence surveys of HIV among Black Africans in England. London: Health Protection Agency.Google Scholar
  76. Save the Children. (2006). One million more: Mobilising the African diaspora health care professionals for capacity building in Africa. London: Save the Children.Google Scholar
  77. School of Health and Human Sciences. (2000). Ethnicity profiling in primary care. The Princes Park Health Centre model. Liverpool, England: Public Health Sector, School of Health and Human Sciences, John Moores University.Google Scholar
  78. Shahadah, A. (2012, May) Linguistics for a new African reality: Language and African Agency. Retrieved from
  79. Sigelman, L., Tuch, S. A., & Martin, J. K. (2005). What’s in a name? Preference for ‘Black’ versus ‘African-American’ among Americans of African descent. Public Opinion Quarterly, 69(3), 429–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sillitoe, K., & White, P. (1992). Ethnic group and the British Census: The search for a question. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 155(1), 141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Simpson, L. (2014, March). How have people’s ethnic identities changed in England and Wales?. Manchester, England: Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity.Google Scholar
  82. Tingay, K., & Stein, S. M. (2005). National CAMHS dataset. Data dictionary. Version 1.1. Dunstable, England: Durocobrivis Publications.Google Scholar
  83. Tucker, C., McKay, R., Kojetin, B., Harrison, R., de la Puente, M., Stinson, L., et al. (1996). Testing methods of collecting racial and ethnic information: Results of the current population survey supplement on race and ethnicity. Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics.Google Scholar
  84. UK Collaborative Group for HIV and STI Surveillance. (2004). Focus on prevention. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the United Kingdom in 2003. London: Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections.Google Scholar
  85. UK Parliament. (2006). House of commons. Hansard. Written answer of 14 July 2006. Column 2116W.Google Scholar
  86. UN (Department of Economic & Social Affairs). (2007). Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings. Retrieved from
  87. Von Ahn, M., Lupton, R., Greenwood, C., & Wiggins, D. (2010a, June). Languages, ethnicity, and education in London (DoQSS Working Paper No. 10-12). London: Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  88. Von Ahn, M., Lupton, R., Greenwood, C., & Wiggins, D. (2010b, July). Languages, ethnicity and education in London. Research findings. UPTAP/ESRC.Google Scholar
  89. White, P. M., Badets, J., & Renaud, V. (1993). Measuring ethnicity in Canadian Censuses. In Statistics Canada & US Bureau of the Census (Eds.), Challenges of measuring an ethnic world: Science, politics and reality (pp. 223–269). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  90. Wingerd, J. (1992). Urban Haitians: Documented/undocumented in a mixed neighbourhood (Ethnographic evaluation of the 1990 Census, Report No. 7. Final Report for Joint Statistical Agreement 90-10). Washington, DC: Bureau of the Census.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health Services StudiesUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthUniversity of Liverpool in LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations