1289.0 - Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity, 1999  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/11/1999   
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Contents >> Ancestry >> Classification & coding

The classification criteria

17. Classification criteria are the principles by which classification categories are aggregated to form broader or higher level categories in a classification structure.

18. The classification criteria and the way they have been applied have produced a classification structure that can be described in conventional terms: cultural and ethnic entities grouped to form narrow groups on the basis of geographic proximity and similarity in terms of cultural and social characteristics; and narrow groups aggregated to form broad groups on the basis of geographic proximity and a degree of similarity in terms of their characteristics.

19. More details regarding the classification criteria are included in the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) Second Edition (ABS Cat. no. 1249.0).

The standard classification and code structure

20. The ASCCEG is to be used when collecting, aggregating and disseminating data relating to the variable Ancestry. The ASCCEG is designed to be used in the classification of information relating to a number of topics such as ancestry, ethnicity, and cultural identity. Although these topics have elements of difference, it is considered that the fundamental concept common to them all, and thus underpinning the classification, is ethnicity. The term 'ethnicity' is used in the ASCCEG to describe a shared identity or similarity of a group of people on the basis of one or more factors, e.g. shared history, cultural traditions, religion or language. In this sense, the term 'ethnicity' can, of course, be applied to all members of the Australian population. 'Australian' or 'Aboriginal' are valid descriptors of ethnicity.

21. The classification has a three-level hierarchical structure. The third and most detailed level of the classification consists of base or third-level units which are ethnic or cultural groups. Included in the third-level units are a number of 'not elsewhere classified' (n.e.c.) categories, which contain ethnic or cultural groups that are not listed separately in the classification.

22. The second level of the classification comprises narrow groups of ethnic and cultural groups which are similar in terms of the classification criteria (geographic proximity in terms of the areas in which they originated, a long shared history, and similarity in terms of social and cultural characteristics).

23. The first and most general level of the classification comprises broad groups of ethnic and cultural groups. Broad groups are formed by aggregating geographically proximate narrow groups.

24. In the classification, one, two and four-digit codes are assigned to the first, second and third-level categories of the classification respectively. The first digit identifies the broad group in which each cultural and ethnic group or Narrow Group is contained. The first two digits taken together identify the narrow group in which each base level cultural and ethnic group is contained. The four-digit codes represent each of the base level cultural and ethnic groups. For example, the code 2 represents the Broad Group North-West European; the code 21 represents the Narrow Group British which is included within North-West European; and the code 2101 represents English which is included in the Narrow Group British.

25. The following example demonstrates the code scheme for the narrow groups and cultural and ethnic groups included under the broad group North-West European:

Channel Islander
2199British, n.e.c. (includes Falkland Islander)
23Western European
2399Western European, n.e.c. (includes Alsatian, Breton, Walloon)
24Northern European
2499Northern European, n.e.c. (includes Faeroese, Greenlandic, Saami)
26. The full standard classification and code structure are included in the ASCCEG.

Residual categories and codes

27. For each narrow group of the classification structure, a four-digit code, consisting of the two digits of the narrow group followed by the digit '99', is reserved as a residual 'not elsewhere classified' (n.e.c.) category. Cultural and ethnic groups which are not separately identified in the classification structure are included in the residual (n.e.c.) category of the narrow group to which they relate. Residual categories are only identified in the classification structure if they are needed. The classification currently identifies 23 residual categories.

28. In each broad group, codes are also reserved for residual categories at the narrow group level. These codes consist of the broad group code followed by '9'. These categories are termed 'other' and consist of separately identified cultural and ethnic groups which do not fit into any of the narrow groups contained within the broad group on the basis of the classification criteria. The classification contains 2 such residual categories.

29. It should be noted that residual categories are part of the standard classification and should not be created or used to code responses which contain insufficient information to be accurately assigned to another category of the classification. For more details regarding the residual categories and codes used when coding ancestry, ethnicity or cultural identity see the ASCCEG.

Supplementary codes

30. Supplementary codes are used to process inadequately described responses in statistical, administrative and service delivery collections. These codes are of three types:

      • The four-digit codes ending with two or three zeros are described as 'not further defined' (n.f.d.) codes and are used to code responses to a statistical or administrative question which cannot be accurately coded to one of the base level units of the classification but which can be coded to a higher level category.
      • The four-digit codes commercing with three zeros are supplementary codes included for operational purposes to allow the coding of survey responses and other data that cannot be allocated a code at any level of the classification structure.
      • The four-digit codes commencing with '09' are used to code responses and other data relating to specific and recognised entities which are not discrete cultural and ethnic groups according to the ASCCEG principles and which cannot be allocated an n.f.d. code as described above.

31. It should be noted that supplementary codes are not part of the main classification structure. They exist for operational reasons only, and no data would be coded to them if sufficiently detailed responses were obtained in all instances. More details regarding the supplementary codes (e.g. 'not further defined' (n.f.d.), 'inadequately described' and 'not stated') used when coding ancestry, ethnicity or cultural identity data are included in the ASCCEG.

Scope of the variable

32. The variable Ancestry applies to all persons.

Application of the classification to other variables

33. The ASCCEG can be used to classify a variety of data relating to ancestry, ethnicity and cultural identity.

Coding procedures

34. The purpose of the ASCCEG is to code the extent to which people associate or identify with particular ancestral, ethnic and cultural groups. It should be noted that the classification is not intended to classify people, but rather all claims of association with an ancestral, ethnic or cultural group. Many people do not identify with a single ancestral, ethnic or cultural group and will give multiple responses to a question on ancestry, ethnicity or cultural identity. Often the responses will indicate an identification with Australia in a national or cultural sense, but will also acknowledge continuing ties with other ancestral, ethnic or cultural groups. Such responses include Irish Australian, Italian Australian, etc. These responses should be assigned codes for both categories they relate to. Sometimes a response will give the ethnicity and ancestry of both parents or all grandparents. If meaningful and useful data is to be collected, stored and disseminated, as many as possible of the cultural and ethnic groups nominated by a person on a statistical or administrative form should be coded. It is suggested that a minimum of two cultural and ethnic groups be coded if a multiple response is given. This will improve the accuracy and usefulness of data. The ABS has developed guidelines for the coding, storage and presentation of multiple responses to questions on ancestry, ethnicity or cultural identity data. These guidelines are included in the ASCCEG publication.

Coding indexes

35. A coding index has been developed to assist in the implementation and use of the ASCCEG. It contains a comprehensive list of the most probable responses to questions relating to ancestry, ethnicity and cultural identity and their correct classification codes. Use of the coding index will enable responses to be coded accurately and quickly to the appropriate category of the classification.

36. Copies of the coding index sorted in alphabetical and numerical (code) order are included in the ASCCEG. It is available in electronic form (for free) from the ABS Website. If you have any queries, you can contact the Standards support HOTLINE on phone (02) 6252 5736, or e-mail social.classifications@abs.gov.au.

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