The Garden

A blog by Marijn van Hoorn

Census troubles (read to the end for a dog video which will make you smile)

Marijn van Hoorn

It’s a year that ends in a one, which means that the twelve-oh-twenty-one UK census is right around the corner — and i have found myself agonising over one question in particular.

The questions asks the filler-in, simply, “What is your ethnic group?”, and requests that ve only tick one box. I’m white, so the relevant part of the form for me reads as such:

  • English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British
  • Irish
  • Gypsy or Irish Traveller
  • Roma
  • Any other White background, write in: [______]

And — ah, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I was born abroad to an English mother and a Dutch father, so for me to tick either “English […] or British” or write in “Dutch” in the box would be disingenuous — remember, i only get one box to tick! I briefly considered writing in “European”, but i don’t want to seem like one of those people (Lib Dems, that is, not Nazis).

I suppose i could always hyphenate, and end up with something like “Anglo-Dutch” or “English Dutch European"; that last one wouldn’t actually fit, but i digress. But then, there’s the worry of getting lost in the data: there are sixty-five million people in the country, and i can forgive a tired statistician for just lumping someone calling themselves some hyphenate term into the “Other Other” category, when that isn’t at all what i want. It’s the same reason i’ll just be writing in “Pagan” in the religion question instead of elaborating further.

The “Mixed or Multiple” background option briefly crossed my mind, but judging by the example options given, i don’t think it’s intended for my situation:

  • White and Black Caribbean
  • White and Black African
  • White and Asian
  • Any other Mixed or Multiple background, write in: [______] [______]

This is all complicated by the further questions on the census itself. Right before the question on ethnicity is one about which constituent country of the United Kingdom you identify with (or an option to just be British, if you so choose), and not long after is a question about what passport or passports you hold (in my case, that’s just the Dutch one). If i filled in my nationality as English and British and my ethnicity as Dutch, would they get the message? Would an English–European–Dutch trifecta, three answers on three questions, make things any clearer? Should i even be bothering with all this thinking, given that Britishness is already assumed by the fact that you’re answering the UK census in the first place?


Anyway, here’s some links, including the promised dog video: