Previous Surveys and Categories

Institutions, such as statistical offices, public administration, and the police, collect sensitive data for various reasons. Such data is also collected for scientific research, as well as in the private, and employment sector. This data is mostly compiled for statistical purposes. In some cases its purpose is to demonstrate existing inequalities.

It is practive to collect sensitive data indirectely related to ethnicity. However, this data does not necessarily provide information on the actual immigrant’s background.

Surveys frequently request information regarding a person’s nationality, birthplace, and the migration history of their parents and grandparents. Below you may find information about where relevant data is collected, and by whom.

Statistical Offices

The regional statistical offices and the Federal Statistical Office are the central actors for collecting data in Germany. They are responsible for carrying out the micro census, as well as for making the collected data accessible in the form of data sets. This enables researchers to retrieve records for scientific studies.

Public Administration

Public administrators have access to data which can allow for conclusions concerning a person’s ethnic origin to be made. The Citizens Registry and the Central Registry of Foreigners collects information regarding a person’s origin and nationality. In addition, such information is stored by Security services, school authorities and social insurance agencies (e.g. pension scheme).


The police are able to collect data required for the police crime statistics. In the data collection one criterion distinguishes suspects between ‘foreigners, and Germans. This unqualified categorisation of certain individuals with migrant background as non-citizens, and thus supposedly as criminals, leads to the making of wrong assumptions based on data from the crime statistics. This may mislead some peopleto draw generalised conclusions about ‘crimes committed by foreigners’.

Scientific Research

In the context of scientific research other categories related to ‘migrant background’ may be surveyed. These may include a person’s nationality, native language, or place of birth. Such information itself does not constitute sensitive data. However, it indirectly alludes to a person’s possible ethnic origin. Such substitute categories are referred to as ‘proxy’. Scientific studies usually aim to analyse or clarify circumstances or problems using these ‘proxy’.

Private Sector

The private sector, including insurance companies and banks, collects data – partly through market research. Therefore, businesses indirectely have access to information regarding the population’s ethnic composition.

Employment Sector

The German Employment Agency is responsible for the collection of statistics on employment and unemployment. In this capacity, information relating to nationality, and thus indirectly to ethnic affiliation is gathered. Companies that ascribe themselves to Diversity-Management-Programs usually implement a data collection system in order to measure to what extent their diversity goals have been met.

Due to the diversity of players there is a risk of the insufficient implementation of data protection regulations in practice. These shall be further discussed in the light of the current legal situation, as well as the general principles of data collection.

© Büro zur Umsetzung von Gleichbehandlung e.V. 2018