Understanding the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity

Topics: Ethnicity

Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Variables

Conceptualizing and operationalizing variables are both important parts of research. Definitions Conceptual definition explains what the concept means, explains what the constructs are and how they relate to other constructs. Operational definition tells us how to measure the variable and describes the variables you will use marking the constructs and procedures used to measure and observe the variables. Conceptualizes race Historically race was known as a biological foundation of who an individual is. That these biological characteristics were specific to one kind of race and not split between other races.

Inherited from generation to generation. This concept of race has since been questioned by scientists. With others believing that race is more of a foundation of racial identity either socially constructed or biologically set. Different people tend to define “race” differently. Some believing we are only a part of four distinct racial categories. These are white or Caucasian, black or African American, yellow or Asian, and red or Native American.

Others believing that race is way more in-depth involving different types of races in different parts of the world. Such as not one specific race like Asian but Cambodian or Thai. (James, 2016) There may be a misconception between race and ethnicity. Some believe that they are the same thing. The difference between the two is that individuals do not have a choice over their racial identity. Most of it coming from the visual connection between race and physical traits.

Ethnic identification can be chosen by individuals based upon whether they do or do not practice certain cultural practices associated with that ethnicity.

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(James, 2016) Operationalizes race Race can be hard to define because of its complexity which makes it difficult to measure. Race is usually defined politically and socially giving it a complexity that does not have clear biological concepts. People tend to identify themselves into racial and ethnical categories but are also categorized by others based upon perception. How a person self identifies their race and ethnicity is a consistent and useful way to measure his or her race and ethnicity. Therefore, it is used in Census reports representing the population. The way others perceive a person’s race and or ethnicity is less relevant but can be important in some circumstances. (National Research Council, 2004) Data collection of race and ethnicity have changed over time. There has been a lack of consistency across and across methods in which this data is collected which makes interoperating the data difficult. Things such as changes in the federal definition of that identity or variations in the way people self-identify may be causing the misinterpretations.

What changes did the Bureau make to the conceptualization and operationalization of race in the 2010 census? The 2010 Census had two questions that were changed concerning race. The first question that changed was for the 2000 Census. It stated, “What is this person’s race?”. The answers to the question were meant to be marked with an x and was worded “Mark x one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be.”. (Humes, Jones, and Ramirez, 2011) On the 2010 Census the question was changed to “What is this person’s race?” “Mark x one or more boxes”. The other change that is now being implemented on the 2010 Census is the use of examples next to the other Asian response box. It now includes Thai, Pakistani and Cambodian among others. There are also examples under the other Pacific Islander category. The 2000 Census did not include any examples in the race category. (Humes, Jones, and Ramirez, 2011) Another change made from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census is to the Hispanic origin question. Instead of the old wording “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?”, It is now worded Is this person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? A second change to the Hispanic question was the removal of the “Mark x the no box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.” There are also now six examples of Hispanic origin groups. (Humes, Jones, and Ramirez, 2011)

Why did the Bureau make these changes? These changes take place to accommodate science and politics of the time. Measurement methods of multiracial populations are continually evolving as well. These changes are also important because of the way that race data is used. Race data can be used to enforce and support equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. It can be used to ensure that minority voting strength is not being diluted regarding political districts and boundaries as well. The growth of interracial marriage has caused this change as well to accommodate these multiracial families so that they are and feel represented. Some families were also not reporting the correct race or only part of their race. These changes will give an easier interpretation for them. (Parker, Horowitz, Morin, and Lopez, 2015)

Could the difference in operationalization produce different conclusions about race? The difference in operationalization could produce different conclusions about race. This could be based on what the persons view of race is. They have expanded upon the different race categories, they are now more specific, and examples are included this may give a much better representation of the races.

Does the Bureau’s conceptualization and operationalization of race coincide with yours? If so, how? If not, what is different? I believe the Bureau’ conceptualization and operationalization of race has tried to keep up with the ever-changing times it does not fully coincide with my own view. I think there is still room for error or misrepresentation and it is hard to get an accurate census of race. Hopefully more can be done to expand upon it for the next Census in 2020 though I read that they will mostly be using the same racial questions as used in 2010. With one difference being a write in area for white and black origins. (Wang, and Leon, 2018)

How changes to variables affect conclusions Changing variables can affect the conclusion in different ways and offer different outcomes. As with the changes in the Census report, by adding different selections in the race category you may now have more people who are identifying as one race that they would not have previously. This can also be seen by giving examples where individuals may have been confused in the past if their race was even on the Census. Therefore, it may now look like there are more Pacific Islanders than in years past but really they were just able to identify as their correct race now that an example is listed for them. Reflection I had a difficult time understanding how to conceptualize and operationalize race. I have never heard of the terms before nor did I understand how we could measure something like the topic of race. Upon doing research though I learned many new things about race, ethnicity and how people identify themselves and how others may perceive one’s race. The Census was also interesting to see since I have never looked at one before. I do like the changes that were made it I understand why they were made to help and give some clarification to the different races on the Census. I think in the future I will be looking forward to seeing how the population has changed and the different race categories that may be modified in the future as more people are a combination of races. I personally think that there are many more races out there that people identify with but when filling out the Census they might not know what constricts they may have on selecting them. For me race is what we identify ourselves as being based upon our family. I identify with being Caucasian, but I have a cousin who is by most standards also Caucasian but classifies her race as being Hispanic because her adoptive family is. I think it comes down to the individual person and their perception.

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Understanding the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/understanding-the-difference-between-race-and-ethnicity/

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