Class vs. Ethnicity

What are the differences in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) between “class of persons” and their subdivisions and “ethnic groups” and their subdivisions?
Classes of persons and ethnic groups are two different pattern headings in LCSH. Therefore they have different subdivisions that can be used under each. Until 1994, a separate list of subdivisions also existed for Indians. This is no longer valid. Indians are now treated as ethnic groups.
Classes of persons:

Class of persons includes age and sex groups; social, economic, and political categories of persons; types of afflicted persons; members of particular religions; employees and occupational groups; etc., such as Women; Youth, Fathers; Farmers; Fire fighters; Judges
Headings for classes of persons qualified by ethnic or national adjectival qualifiers are also included in this category, such as African American women, African American youth, Hispanic American judges, Chinese American farmers, African American dentists; French students; etc.
Finally, this category also includes headings for classes of persons that are formulated with subdivisions used under names of places or individual corporate bodies, for example, Great Britain–Officials and employees; Stanford University–Faculty; United States. Navy–Officers. Not included in this category are headings for social classes such as Peasantry; Nobility; Middle class; Working class.
Ethnic groups:

Ethnic groups are groups of people who are bound together by common ties of ancestry and culture, such as African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans, Also included are headings for nationalities such as Danish, Asians, and Ukrainians, when they are used to designate those nationalities outside their native countries. Ethnic groups does not cover the general heading Indigenous peoples, nor the jurisdictional name headings established to represent the governments of tribes recognized by the United States government, for example, Spokane Tribe of the Spokane Reservation, Washington.
The two different patterns have different lists of what subdivisions can be used under each type of heading. Although many of them are the same, there are some major differences.

Examples of subdivisions that can be used under both:

  • –Economic conditions
  • –History
  • –Social conditions
  • –Social life and customs

Examples of subdivisions that can only be used under one of the groups: 1. “Politics and government” is used under ethnic groups, but “Political activity” is used under classes of persons. Example:

  • African Americans – Politics and government.
  • African American women – Political activity.

2. We can use the subdivisions “Race identity” and “Ethnic identity” under ethnic groups, but not under classes of persons. Therefore we can use these subdivisions under Hispanic Americans but not under Hispanic American youth.
3. “Religion” is used under ethnic groups, but “Religious life” is used under classes of persons. Example:

  • Navajo women – Religious life.
  • Navajo Indians – Religion.

In general it is a good idea to search under more than one subdivision, or to truncate the subdivision, if you are not sure if your main heading would be considered a “class of persons” or an “ethnic group.”

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