Study Presentation: How to Ask Demographic Questions on Race and Ethnicity

Our CEO and Founder Lilah Raynor is a member of The Insights Association’s IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) Council. For more than a year, the Council has been working to fulfill a mission to deliver measurement, education and standards of excellence to address the lack of diverse representation in the insights profession and the populations it researches. One of the key initiatives of the group is research-on-research efforts to determine how to best ask (or not ask) demographic questions on gender, sexual orientation, and race and ethnicity.  


The results of this collaborative research effort from Logica Research and other industry partners were presented at the Insights Association’s Annual Conference this month. The presentation, “On Good Terms: How to Ask Demographic Questions on Race and Ethnicity in a More Inclusive & Sensitive Way,” outlined the data uncovered in the recent study. The results indicate how market researchers can turn the dial to make our research more inclusive.


The study on how to ask race and ethnicity in a more inclusive way, included 4,892 U.S.-based respondents assessing 10 different race and ethnicity identity questions, with the survey deployed in both English and Spanish. The methods used included implicit testing, index scoring​, paired comparison​, question wording deep dives​ and open ended perception questions​. We looked at positive and negative reactions. One interesting data point is that younger generations are more likely to react negatively to race and ethnicity questions. Significantly more Gen Z respondents are confused (27%), frustrated (24%, and offended (20%) compared to those in any other generation.​


The IDEA Council has put together recommendations on industry standards for inclusive question formats from the research-on-research results. Key learnings include:


  • Consider whether you need to ask race and ethnicity at all and only ask if you really need to
  • Use the question characteristics of the questions that were most preferred, such as providing detailed and descriptive response options–see the presentation for more detail
  • Allow for people to select multiple response options
  • Have a prefer to self-identify option (not “other”)

If you’d like a chance to go through the insights in detail with us, please reach out and we will schedule a time.

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