A Kent University team led by senior research fellow Peter Aspinall has been awarded £156,000 to investigate the identities chosen by young mixed-race people.
The study, backed by the grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, will be one of the largest of its kind. The researchers will talk to about 300 mixed-race adults aged 18 to 25 years in colleges of further and higher education.
Mr Aspinall, a specialist in ethnicity classifications and health, will work with Ferhana Hashem of the Centre for Health Service Studies and Miri Song, a specialist in ethnic identity at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.
The study will look at why this group chooses particular identities, how they assert them and the effects identities have on things such as friendship and political views.
Mr Aspinall thought the project had attracted the attention of the ESRC because there is little research on young people of mixed race even though they are the country's fastest growing ethnic group.
He said the research could help the public sector to take better account of culture when delivering services. It could also shape the questions of culture and ethnicity for the 2011 census.
"The UK population is becoming increasingly diverse," he added. "We have seen a widening variety of migrant flows and the rise of hyphenated identities, such as Scottish-Muslim, frequently incorporating nationality or religion.
"The notion of ethnic identity as something that is fixed, stable and homogeneous has been shown to have diminishing validity."
The study will finish in February 2008 and the report will be published later that year.