Abstract

Hickman M. Census ethnic identities and second-generation identities: a study of the Irish in England and Wales. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 2011; 37 (1): 79-97.

This article focuses on the second-generation Irish in Britain, and presents findings of the relationship between particular social characteristics and predictions of the likelihood of second-generation Irish selecting 'White Irish' or 'White British' in the 2001 Census in England and Wales. Using a combination of new quantitative data and earlier (unpublished) qualitative evidence, it analyses the complexity underlying the public claiming of a British or Irish identity in the Census and argues that it is not possible to predict that individuals with the closest attachments to Ireland will necessarily select the 'White Irish' category nor that those who select 'White British' inevitably have weaker ties. The ONS Longitudinal Survey data presented here reveal that age, gender, marital status, educational qualifications, upward social mobility and number of Irish-born parents are significant social characteristics increasing the likelihood of particular selections of census category. The article discusses the form of the ethnic question and its impact on response patterns, proposed revisions for the 2011 Census, and the usefulness or otherwise of census categories as a lens for examining second-generation identification.