Codes and Frequencies
Race identifies the racial group with which a person identified himself or herself, or to which an enumerator assigned them. Determinations of race are based largely on appearance or ancestral place of origin.
Comparability — Index
Comparability — General
Race is largely comparable within countries over time. Cross-national comparisons must be made with caution because of the significant socially determined element in racial classification. This variable incorporates data from census questions that specifically referred to "race" or "color" or physical characteristics. Other "ethnicity" variables are available in numerous samples.
Only the category "White" is consistently available. Each of the other main categories is absent from at least one sample. When a group that should logically exist is missing from a sample, users must determine from the available specified categories where it must have been coded. The specified Asian "races" reflect the major categories identified in the United States and United Kingdom. The modern U.S. samples have considerably more detailed breakdowns in the unharmonized variables.
The original labeling of the mixed-race categories is retained, to emphasize the peculiar meaning they may have had. Persons of mixed racial backgrounds that include "Black" would generally be classified as "Black" in the United States but as mixed-race in some other countries. From 1960 to 1990, the United States did not formally recognize a mixed-race category.
Comparability — Brazil [top]
The category "Brown" (parda) is essentially a residual grouping for all peoples not covered by the other categories, generally those deemed to have mixed ethnic backgrounds. In 1980 it also includes all indigenous persons, whether mixed-race or not.
The treatment of indigenous persons varies over time:
In 1960, the instructions specified that only indigenous persons living in native villages or reservations were to be classified as "Indian"; those living among the larger population were to be coded "Brown" (parda).
The 1980 census included all indigenous persons in "Brown" (parda).
The 1991, 2000 and 2010 censuses specifically stated that all persons of pure indigenous descent were to be marked "Indigenous," regardless of where they resided. Those of mixed indigenous background were to be considered "Brown."
Comparability — Canada [top]
In both samples, the "White" category indicates the person was not a member of a "visible minority." The 1991 sample only distinguishes between white and non-white.
Comparability — Colombia [top]
The question referred to the person's "culture, group, or physical characteristics."
Comparability — Costa Rica [top]
In the 2000 sample "Black" includes Afro-Costa Rican. The category for "White" is derivative: it was "None of the above" on the census questionnaire and therefore could include some other residual groups. The 2011 sample includes several response categories, including a separate category for “White or mestizo.”
Comparability — Cuba [top]
The question was explicitly about skin color. To answer this question, the enumerator was instructed not to ask the question of the person directly, but to mark the answer according to his/her observation. If the person was not present, the enumerator was instructed to ask about the skin color of the absent person.
Comparability — Ecuador [top]
The category "Mixed Race" category include the (Mestizo) and Mulatto categories in the 2001 and 2010 samples. The 2010 census added an "Afro-Ecuadorian" group -- coded here as a subcategory of "black" -- and Montubio (coastal peasant), which gets a distinct code within "Other".
Comparability — El Salvador [top]
The El Salvador 2007 sample refers to the person's self-identified race. Additional information about type of indigenous groups can be found in the unharmonized ethnicity variable.
Comparability — Jamaica [top]
Information about race was collected through respondent self-report for all Jamaica census samples. In Jamaica 1982 and 1991 samples this question was directed only to persons in private households or selected collective households (including religious, educational, military, and other institutions); persons not answering this question are classified as "unknown" in both samples. In Jamaica 2001 sample, information about race was collected from all persons.
Comparability — Malawi [top]
The Malawi 1987 sample includes race for all persons based on ancestral origins.
Comparability — Saint Lucia [top]
The data are comparable across years, but 1991 identifies more categories.
Comparability — South Africa [top]
The samples are comparable. The 2001 census form had an "Other" response, but there were so few cases that these were allocated to the other four categories by the South African statistical office. In 2011, the "Other” category contains many cases and is included as a unique category.
Comparability — United Kingdom [top]
In the 2001 sample, the only responses in Northern Ireland are "White" and "Other."
Comparability — United States [top]
In all census years, certain races were specified as choices on the census form, including an "Other" category. We cannot tell to what degree people "forced" themselves to fit in a category if they could not find one that fit them exactly. Users should note what specific categories were detailed on the census schedules.
Considerable sub-category detail is available for Asian races in all years and for indigenous races for 1990-2005. Alaskan Natives are included with American Indians. See the unharmonized source variables.
Race has been self-enumerated since 1960. Beginning in 1990, respondents were specifically asked what race they "considered themselves" to be, although such self-description was more or less operative since 1960.
No distinct Hispanic "race" has ever been delineated. Persons of Hispanic origin have been absorbed by the available race choices on the census schedules (or classified among "other races"). The great majority of Hispanics undoubtedly have been classified as White over the years.
From 1960 to 1990, mixed-race persons had to give a single race response. It was determined on the following basis:
1960-1970: Use the race of the father. If the father's race cannot be determined, use the first race listed by the person. Note that beginning in 1970 there is no mention of giving priority to the non-white parent's race.
1980-1990: Use the race of the mother. If the mother's race cannot be determined, use the first race listed by the person.
2000-2015: Multiple-race responses are allowed. Some combinations (such as "Chinese and Japanese") could be coded to specific major categories by using the unharmonized source variables.
Comparability — Uruguay [top]
The samples inquired about ancestry, and multiple responses were allowed. In the 2011 sample, the principal ancestry identified by the respondent is coded. Respondents who gave multiple responses but who did not identify a principal ancestry are coded as "two or more races." If the respondent did not have ancestry information, the instruction was to register "unknown" race.
Comparability — Zimbabwe [top]
The census questionnaire asks about ethnic origin, which is defined to be race in the enumeration instructions.
- All persons
- Brazil: 1960, 1980, 1991, 2000, 2010
- Canada: 1901, 1911, 1991, 2001
- Colombia: 2005
- Costa Rica: 2000, 2011
- Cuba: 2002
- Ecuador: 2001, 2010
- El Salvador: 2007
- Jamaica: 1982, 1991, 2001
- Malawi: 1987
- Mozambique: 1997, 2007
- Puerto Rico: 2000, 2005, 2010
- Saint Lucia: 1980, 1991
- South Africa: 2001, 2007, 2011
- United Kingdom: 1991, 2001
- United States: 1850a, 1850b, 1860, 1870, 1880a, 1880b, 1900, 1910, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015
- Uruguay: 2006, 2011
- Zimbabwe: 2012