Gender Gradations: Measuring Sex and Gender Diversity in Surveys

Aliya Saperstein, Stanford University
Laurel Westbrook, Grand Valley State University
Devon Magliozzi, Stanford University

Researchers depend on valid measures of demographic categories to describe the population and identify axes of difference. Yet, the measurement of sex and gender in U.S. surveys has not kept up with either contemporary gender theory or the diversity of lived experiences. To help close the growing gap between theory and method, we tested the feasibility of incorporating alternative measures with a series of national samples. Each pilot study recruited at least 1,500 adults and included multiple measures of sex and gender that allowed not only for diversity of identity and expression but also for change over the life course. Our findings indicate that respondents had little difficulty answering questions about their sex at birth, current gender identity, or perceived masculinity and femininity. Results also reveal previously hidden variation within the standard categories of male and female that is correlated with attitudes and behaviors of interest to demographers.

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Presented in Session 132: Measurement Issues in Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality