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Ethnic Group and Language Search Trees

Learn about ethnic groups and languages spoken in WageIndicator countries around the world.

When studying labour market outcomes, both migration and ethnic background are important variables. The two variables are in some countries intertwined, but in others they are not. Worldwide, the definitions of migration and ethnic groups vary, and are therefore measured differently in different surveys. In large countries, such as India or China, migration within the country may be important for labour market outcomes. Migration may be only important to the first generation, or sometimes also to the second generation. The holding of formal citizenship rights may be significant. In some countries migration is not of primary interest, with ethnic background or language spoken at home being better variables to be used in studies on labour market outcomes. The WageIndicator survey therefore includes a considerable diversity of questions related to migration and ethnic background.

In some countries, in addition to country of birth, a question asks ‘To which ethnic group do you belong?’, followed by a country-specific list of the most common ethnic groups, the so-called ‘ethnicity’ search tree. The translation of this question differs across countries, varying from ‘ethnic groups’ or ‘racial groups’, to ‘religious groups’ or ‘minority groups’. In some countries, this is a Y/N question ‘do you belong to a minority group’, followed by a list of minorities, if ticked Y.

In an effort to measure ethnic background and migration as precisely as possible, information is also requested about the language the respondent mostly speaks at home. The answer consists of a country-specific list of the languages most commonly spoken in the country of survey, including the native language(s), the item ‘other’ and if applicable an item ‘local dialect’.

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