Policies and practices regarding the collection, classification and output of data on multiple ethnicities have changed over time in New Zealand, in line with broader shifts in the approach to ethnicity data in official statistics.
The 2005 Statistical Standard for Ethnicity produced by Statistics New Zealand included changes to recommended practice for coding and output of multiple ethnicities in official statistics, most notably the move away from prioritisation (a method whereby individuals who identify with more than one ethnic group are assigned to a single mutually exclusive group based on a pre-determined hierarchy) as a standard input or output method.
The standard also recommended that all collections should be able to collect up to six ethnicities for an individual, with the ability to record three ethnicities (where applicable) a minimum requirement (Statistics New Zealand 2005a). These changes, in particular the move in recommended official practice away from prioritisation, have some potential impacts for measuring and monitoring Māori health and ethnic inequalities. In the health and disability sector, prioritised ethnicity has become a relatively common method in the analysis and output of ethnic statistics, particularly where comparisons are being made between ethnic groups.
This paper broadly considers the conceptualisation and classification of multiple ethnic affiliations in New Zealand, and different methods for the collection, classification, analysis, and output of data on multiple ethnicities in the health sector, with the aim of identifying practical and theoretical issues that impact on the ability to measure and monitor Māori health and ethnic inequalities.