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Ancestry (ANCP, ANC1P, ANC2P)
The conclusion of the Consultative Group was that major policy issues required data about those people who were born overseas themselves, or whose parents were born overseas. It was considered that an ancestry question, in combination with a question on whether the person's parents were born in Australia or overseas, would produce the desired information.
For the 2006 and 2011 Censuses, respondents were asked to mark the ancestries they most closely identified with and to consider their ancestry back as far as two generations (i.e. their parents and grandparents). Respondents were asked to report at least one ancestry, but no more than two ancestries. The instructions differed from the 2001 Census where respondents were asked to 'Provide more than one ancestry if necessary', and to consider their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
For the 2016 Census the format of the ancestry question was revised to provide two distinct text response areas for two separate written ancestry responses. This change aimed to clarify responses and improve autocoding rates. In previous Censuses, when writing more than one ancestry in a single area, people tended to add marks such as backslashes or hyphens between them, which made the entries fail autocoding and left the intended answer unclear.
Item non-response rates are a measure of how many people did not respond to a particular question as a proportion of the total number of people the question was applicable to. In this instance the response is left as not stated.
The majority of item non-response is attributable to the people who did not respond to the Census at all. Refer to item non-response rates for more information. The second and smaller contributor to item non-response is when people return a Census form but may not answer a particular question(s). For more information, refer to Understanding Census data quality.
The non-response rate for this variable was 7.0% (6.9% in 2011).
Data usage notes
The objective of the question on ancestry is to gain a better understanding of a person's ethnic background, particularly for Australians who have recently arrived. A person's ancestry, when used in conjunction with the person's birthplace, language and religion, and whether the person's parents were born in Australia or overseas, provides a good indication of the ethnic background of first and second generation Australians. Ancestry data also help to identify the distinct cultural groups within Australia, such as Maoris or Australian South Sea Islanders, and groups that are spread across countries, such as Kurds or Indians. Country of birth data alone cannot identify these groups. Identification of these groups is essential for planning and for the effective delivery of services to particular ethnic communities.
Because Ancestry is a multi-response question in the Census, responses were coded into two variables - Ancestry 1 (first response) and Ancestry 2 (second response). Depending on the number of responses given, some people are recorded with one ancestry while others have two. This means that the number of responses for a particular ancestry for a geographic area may be greater than the number of people in that area. There is no ranking of responses, so if a respondent reports two ancestries, both answers have equal standing.
The ancestry classification is based on the geographic area in which a group originated or developed, and the similarity of cultural and ethnic groups in terms of social and cultural characteristics.
The ABS developed this classification to satisfy wide community interest in the ethnic and cultural composition of the Australian population and the characteristics of particular migrant community groups. The classification is intended to provide a standard to meet a growing statistical, administrative and service delivery need for data relating to these interests.
The measurement of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Australian population, and the degree to which Australians retain their ethnic and cultural identity, is primarily based on the use of a number of Census variables related to a person's origin, including: Ancestry, Ancestry 1, Ancestry 2, Birthplace of Female Parent, Birthplace of Male Parent , Birthplace of Parents, Country of Birth of Person, Religious Affiliation, Year of Arrival in Australia, Indigenous Status and language variables such as Language Spoken at Home and Proficiency in Spoken English.
Definitions for Ancestry, Ancestry 1 and Ancestry 2 are available in the 2016 Census Dictionary with additional information available in the Glossary.
For related information see data quality statements for Country of Birth of Person, Country of Birth of Mother, Country of Birth of Father and Language Spoken at Home.
Household form question image:
Question 18 as it appeared on the 2016 Census Household Paper Form:
A text only version of the online Census Household form is available from the Downloads tab.
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