The World in names: new geographies of ethnic minorities revealed through family name and personal name analysis

Pablo Mateos, University College London
Richard Webber, University College London
Paul Longley, University College London

Understanding of the nature and detailed composition of ethnic groups remains key to a vast swathe of social science, to medicine and to our understanding of human biology. In practice, however, much research remains hamstrung by the quality and availability of ethnicity classifications, and consequent shortcomings in our ability meaningfully to subdivide populations. Ethnicity information about populations is not usually routinely available, and when it is, are based upon diverse, vague or overgeneralised classifications. Common consequences are a lack of consistency between different studies, incompleteness of coverage, impediments to longitudinal analysis, and inability to identify causes of ethnic inequality. An alternative methodology has been developed by the authors to ascribe population ethnicity using family name and personal name analysis, at very fine geographical levels using a very detailed typology of over 100 ethnic groups, and that can be continuously updated with a names register. This paper presents the results of its successful application in London. The method uses a tool to assign an individual’s personal name and family name to one of 100 Cultural Ethnic and Linguistic groups (CEL), which are weighted according to name scores to provide a final probable CEL. This tool has been applied to the UK Electoral Roll as well as to several health registers in London. The accuracy of the method has been evaluated using separate datasets where the self-reported ethnicity of individuals has been recorded. The outcome of the research is an improved methodology for classifying population registers, as well as small areas, into CEL groups, that makes possible the creation of much more detailed, frequently updated, representations of the ethnic kaleidoscope of UK cities. The results of the pilot study are used to illustrate the diverse ethnic geography of London in 2004, and the detailed nature of spatial segregation operating at neighbourhood scales.

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Presented in Session 25: Data collection and measurement of international migration