Understanding the economic implications of racial and ethnic identification in survey data


Haskell, Nancy (2018). Understanding the economic implications of racial and ethnic identification in survey data. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


A number of studies consider the effects of race and ethnicity on individuals, but many fail to consider that self-reported racial and ethnic identity in survey data is potentially an endogenous choice. This paper looks at patterns of racial and ethnic reporting for high school students across two different survey environments and relative to their biological parents using Add Health data. Reports of being black and Asian are the most consistent, while Native American Indian and "other" race are the least consistently reported. Inconsistency between students and their biological parents appears not to be the result of random measurement error. Students who report a race that neither parent reported are generally identifying in a manner consistent with their physical appearance (as noted by an interviewer). Overall, students with better-educated parents are less likely to identify as Hispanic, but they are far more likely to identify as black. These and other findings suggest the choice of racial and ethnic identification is influenced by age, cohort-effects, parental human capital, and appearance, all of which may be correlated with behavioral and economic outcomes. Using Wave III and Wave V of the Add Health survey, this paper works to identify the extent to which the chosen racial classification changes over time as well as the association between these identification choices and labor market outcomes.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Haskell, Nancy

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID