Ethnic origin
The concept of ethnic origin is an attempt to classify people, not according to their current nationality
Nationality is membership of a nation or sovereign state, usually determined by their citizenship, but sometimes by ethnicity or place of residence, or based on their sense of national identity....

, but according to where their ancestors came from. For example somebody living in a monocultural environment, speaking English for example and clearly a member of an English-speaking cultural milieu, may be descended from immigrants speaking some other language and still participate in some of aspects their culture.

Ethnic origin has become a popular classification in statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

, where the concept of races has been largely discarded since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, for various reasons. A reaction against the abuses of the Nazis
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 and apartheid made it hard to collect, store or publish racial data. Social scientists in general have lost interest in race as useful concept of study, with many other differences between population groups more significant. However the relative prosperity of distinguishable groups remain of interest in public policy discussions.

In the US, however, the use of the term race is still current. The census asks questions about race, though the classification used is no different from what would be termed ethnic origin elsewhere.

The concept of ethnic origin in practice may seem arbitrary and without a rigorous definition of how to assign a person to the particular categories. If a person was asked for their ethnic origin and answered "how do I tell what ethnic origin I am?" it may not be clear whether they are being asked for: their country of birth, the country of birth of their parents, or more distant ancestors (how distant?), or for a description of their appearance, such as skin colour or hair type, or for their cultural behaviour such as food, clothing, language and the people they associate with. The answers to these questions may be contradictory and suggest different ethnic origins.

The answer of interest to the questioner is probably whether the person considers themselves to be a member of a particular ethnic subdivision of society, or are considered a member of a such a group by others. This would affect whether they were possibly subject to discrimination etc. However the question is still open to interpretation, since a person may be identified differently depending on the mode of contact, e.g., considering outward appearance such as skin colour or clothing, name, or use of written or oral language, etc. This raises the question of whether ethnic origin is just another term for ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

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