Visible minorities are a group categorized in health research to identify and track inequalities, or to study the impact of racialization. We compared classifications obtained from a commonly used measure (Statistics Canada standard) with those obtained by two direct questions—whether one is a member of a visible minority group and whether one is perceived or treated as a person of colour.
A mixed-methods analysis was conducted using data from an English-language online survey (n = 311) and cognitive interviews with a maximum diversity subsample (n = 79). Participants were Canadian residents age 14 and older.
Agreement between the single visible minority item and the standard was good (Cohen’s Κ = 0.725; 95% CI = 0.629, 0.820). However, participants understood “visible minority” in different and often literal ways, sometimes including those living with visible disabilities or who were visibly transgender or poor. Agreement between the single person of colour item and the standard was very good (Κ = 0.830; 95% CI = 0.747, 0.913). “Person of colour” was more clearly understood to reflect ethnoracial background and may better capture the group likely to be targeted for racism than the Statistics Canada standard. When Indigenous participants who reported being persons of colour were reclassified to reflect the government definition of visible minority as non-Indigenous, this measure had strong agreement with the current federal standard measure (K = 0.851; 95% CI = 0.772, 0.930).
A single question on perception or treatment as a person of colour appears to well identify racialized persons and may alternately be recoded to approximate government classification of visible minorities.
Greta R. Bauer
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