Idea #18: Use actual maps in race surveys


Premise:

Being a student, I’ve taken my fair share of standardized tests. ACTs, PSATs, SATs, and APs should really be called FAMILIAR2MEs. On many of these, I’ve had to fill out something stating my ethnicity and citizenship. I often leave ethnicity blank, only marking the “US Citizen” bubble. Don’t take that the wrong way–I’m fully capable of indicating where my ancestors were born, but I feel as though ethnicity shouldn’t play a huge role in my life. However, my guess is that a fair share of students may want to respond, but simply don’t know how to until they look it up after the test. For example, walking out of an ACT prep session, I had a Middle Eastern friend ask me what his race was. He wasn’t sure whether he should have marked Asian or White. A similar situation occurred on the 2010 US Census. In essence, the definitions of race on these questions.

The Concept:

Replace the questions about race with an outlined world map that asks something along the lines of “Where do you trace your ancestry to?” Instead of marking that they are black, white, etc., responders can shade the inside of a nation’s borders.

The Pros:

  • Except in cases of disputed borders, there’s no ambiguity on the map. This solves almost all of the confusion that confronts analysts.
  • This also works in relation to questions that ask not about nationality, but about state/provincial residency. “What state do you live in?” becomes “Please shade the inside of the borders of the state you live in.”
  • This approach allows analysts to fine-tune their data much more than a choice of four or five races. It also nearly eliminates the hassle that I imagine there must be in handling the response “Other” for geographic/racial questions.

The Cons:

Enough said.

Just kidding. Some nations are so small (Liechtenstein, anyone?) that they may be difficult for responders to find and for machines to read. Other than that, though, I can’t really think of any major issues besides cost.

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