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How do you self-identify your ethnicity?

Filed by KOSU News in Public Insight Network.
October 17, 2012

Sources informing stories at Public Insight Network partner newsrooms often have the option of providing demographic information so that journalists can send relevant questions their way.

I have spotted what I think is an interesting element to this: the way people describe their race/ethnicity. PIN queries ask this question in an open-ended way that allows respondents to write how they view their own ethnicity or race, instead of selecting an option from a drop-down menu of choices.

The U. S. Census Bureau asks respondents to share their ancestry in its decennial census. In 2000, 7 percent of respondents said their family ancestry was 'American.' (Image: U.S. Census Bureau)

The U. S. Census Bureau asks respondents to share their ancestry in its decennial census. In 2000, 7 percent of respondents said their family ancestry was ‘American.’ (Image: U.S. Census Bureau)

Twenty-one percent of sources in the PIN have answered that question.

More than 420 people have told us that they are “human”! Likewise, people share with us that they are mutts (119), alien (1) or just American (400). In fact, according the the U.S. Census Bureau, 7 percent of people in America who responded to the 2000 census — that’s 20.2 million people — reported that their family origins were “American.” (See the chart at left.) That represents the largest numerical growth of any ancestry group since the previous census.

I see responses like this on an almost daily basis, and I’m left wondering: What does it mean for us as journalists — but also as humans? Is ethnicity still a relevant descriptor of an individual in assessing what questions to ask them or do people associate more with other aspects of who they are?

I don’t have the answers, but I do think this opens up a very interesting discussion of identity – one that I would love to see a query on!

So what would YOU say to this question? You can add all sorts of helpful demographics to your Public Insight profile (or join the network for the first time) by clicking here. Your responses will help journalists send you more relevant questions in the future.

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