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People and places Ethnicity and race

Overview

The word “race” should not appear in our publications unless reporting on a survey that specifically asks about race. The word “race” places people into categories based on physical characteristics, while ethnicity is self-defined and includes aspects such as culture, heritage, religion, and identity.

Ethnic groups

Much of our research (including Census 2021) uses the five high-level ethnic groups, so this is how we describe these ethnic group categories in our publications:

  • “Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh”
  • “Black, Black British, Black Welsh, Caribbean or African”
  • “Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups”
  • “White”
  • “Other ethnic group”

Where we need more detail (as in Census 2021), there is a second level of more specific sub-groups we can use to describe ethnic groups (opens in a new tab) 

If you need this level of detail, use the appropriate ethnic group name, followed by a colon and then the sub-group.

Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh: Pakistani

Alternatively, this can be written as:

Pakistani within the “Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh” ethnic group

Combining ethnic groups

If it is not possible to use separate ethnic groups, you can use combined ethnic groups. However, do this with caution, as combining too many diverse ethnic groups will not produce useful insights and analysis.

If combining groups, use “and” not slashes (/), as slashes can imply that the terms are the same. Slashes are also not always accessible for users.

Read more in our symbols and special characters guidance

Asian and Asian British

Capitalisation

Capitalise all ethnic groups as they appear on our survey questions and in line with the Government Analysis Function's Ethnicity harmonised standard (opens in a new tab) 

Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi
Black, Black British, African or Caribbean: Nigerian

We capitalise groups because:

  • they are technical categories used for data collection
  • this maintains a consistent approach for all ethnicities
  • it makes our content easier to read if we need to distinguish between “the Other ethnic group” and “other ethnic groups”

Ethnic minorities

Use “Ethnic minorities” to refer to all ethnic groups except the White British group. Ethnic minorities can include White minorities, such as Irish Travellers, so make it clear which groups your data include.

Do not use “non-White” or “non-Black”. Defining groups in relation to the White majority was not well received in user testing, and defining groups by what they are not can be confusing.

BAME and BME

Do not use the terms “Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME)” or “Black and minority ethnic (BME)” because:

  • these highlight some groups and not others, for example, people from the Black and Asian ethnic groups are specifically included, but people from the Mixed ethnic group are not
  • the term is used inconsistently, and it is unclear whether it includes White minority groups
  • in user research, the acronyms BAME and BME were not well understood

Phrasing

Do not use the phrase “people of colour”. This blurs the separate identities of the groups that it covers and does not include White minorities. Similarly, do not use the phrase “mixed race people”, use “people from the Mixed ethnic group” instead.

When writing about ethnic groups, write the term for the person first and then use the group that describes them.

People in the “Asian or Asian British: Pakistani” ethnic group

Babies in the “White: British” ethnic group

When writing about ethnic groups, write the term for the person first and then use the group that describes them.

People in the “Asian or Asian British: Pakistani” ethnic group

Babies in the “White: British” ethnic group

Adults in the “Mixed or Multiple” ethnic groups

Ethnicities and nationalities

Because of the subjective and multi-dimensional nature of ethnicity, ethnic groups can also include aspects of nationalities or national identities.

Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani

Remind users that we are referring to ethnic groups, rather than nationalities or national identities by giving the full title of the ethnic group.

People from the “Asian or Asian British: Indian” ethnic group

Communities

When referring to communities by ethnicity, culture, or religion, it is best to use plurals to reflect the diversity within these groups.

Summary of the meeting with representatives from Sikh communities not Summary of the meeting with representatives from the Sikh community

African communities in London not the African community in London

Do not refer to “hard-to-reach populations”, instead use “rarely heard populations”.

Do not use the phrase “sub-population” as this implies that this group is a lesser part of the population.

Help improve this page

Let us know how we could improve this page, or share your user research findings. Discuss this page on GitHub (opens in a new tab)