Ethnic identity, its formation, expression and consequences are sources of extensive discussion and debate within multicultural societies. Analysis of identity is increasingly finding its way into survey based analysis and is being explored by disciplines beyond psychology, and qualitative and theoretical sociology. However, effective and appropriate survey measures of ethnic identity that are suitable for inclusion in a general purpose sample survey and which allow estimation of change and development across the age range are in short supply. Here, we describe the process of development of a series of new ethnic identity questions, designed specifically for inclusion in Understanding Society but with applicability for longitudinal studies further afield. We detail the rationale for the development and the process by which the final set of questions was arrived at, and outline the implications for future research agendas.