Tip: Discuss with stakeholders the demographic information to be collected. Consider providing stakeholders with a fairly comprehensive list of demographic possibilities and have stakeholders select their top priority categories.
Evaluators often ask for demographic information on race, ethnicity, sex, educational level, disability, and age but these are only a few of the different categories of available demographic data. Discussing which demographic data to collect with stakeholders helps ensure data collected is important to those involved. Sample demographic categories, from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey include: Age, Sex, Hispanic or Latino(a) ancestry, Race, Household relationships, Homeowner or Renter, Ancestry, Disability, Grandparents as caregivers, Educational level, Income, Occupation, Industry, Class of worker, Labor force status, Language spoken at home, Place of birth, Citizenship, Year of entry into U.S., School enrollment, Educational attainment, and Veteran status.1
Tip: Unless there is a specific reason not to, use the standard census categories for race/ethnic status and include a separate open-ended question which allows respondents to self identify.
Using the standard census categories2
allows for some comparability across studies while having participants self identify. Using an open-ended response allows participants to provide the evaluator with information about their salient race/ethnicity. Collecting data at this level of granularity allows for greater flexibility in aggregation.
Tip: When asking adults about disability status and type of disability, consider asking the time of onset of the disability.
Rationale: Program impacts may be quite different for people who have been disabled from birth or early childhood and those who first experienced a disability later in life.
Tip: Since there are several different “standard” sets of categories used for people with disabilities, select the set that best reflects the target population(s) and also ask an open-ended question which allows respondents to self identify.
Using the set of categories that is best targeted toward your population(s) allows for some comparability across studies. The categories3
listed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) targets people under 21 and are used primarily in education. The somewhat different categories4
listed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) target all individuals with disabilities and are used for areas of employment, public services, and public accommodations (including many areas related to colleges and universities). The World Health Organization has an International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF)5
that might best be used if comparisons are being made across populations across different countries.
Tip: Participant demographic characteristics should be broken out by characteristics that are important to the study, such as gender, race/ethnicity, and disability status as long as confidentiality can be guaranteed. Data should be reported multi-demographically as in the number of White women with and without disabilities, White men with and without disabilities, Black women with and without disabilities, and so on.
Tip: Results should be broken out by demographic characteristics that are important to the study unless to do so would threaten confidentiality.
Rationale: Breaking out demographic characteristics by such categories as gender, race/ethnicity, and disability allows for better descriptions of the population and provides guidance as to whom the results may apply. While small cell sizes may be problematic in statistical analysis, as long as confidentiality is not compromised, they are not a problem for reporting.
Tip: If the numbers of participants in different groups are small, report the data as numbers as well as percentages.
Rationale: When subgroup sizes are small, reporting numbers as well as percentages makes the actual size of the subgroup more clear.
US Department of Commerce.
Census Bureau American Community Survey: Questions on the form and why we ask.
U.S. Census Bureau (2011).
American Community Survey. OMB Number 6070-0810.
Oregon Department of Education: Office of Student learning and Partnerships.
IDEA Eligibility Categories.
US Department of Justice. (July, 2009).
A guide to disability rights laws.
World Health Organization. (2003).