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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Measuring sex and gender identity in social surveys: the next phase 2

Session Organisers Dr Soazig Clifton (National Centre for Social Research)
Mrs Lisa Rutherford (National Centre for Social Research and University College London)
TimeWednesday 19 July, 14:00 - 15:00
Room Martini U6-4

The way in which data on sex and gender identity are collected in official statistics and social surveys has been in the spotlight in recent years. This attention has resulted in many social surveys, either formally or informally, reviewing and what data they collected on the topic, and how. Outputs from these reviews are beginning to emerge. For official statistics this has sometimes been in the form of guidance on how official data on sex and gender identity should be collected.
This period of review has taken place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The requirement for social surveys to quickly deviate from standard data collection methods has been well documented and there is a broad consensus that the pandemic will have long-term implications for how social surveys are conducted. The shift away from traditional face to face interviewing also has implications for what sex and gender identity data can be collected.
The topic reviews and pandemic followed broadly similar, independent, timelines. ESRA 2023 represents an ideal opportunity, and forum, for social survey researchers to collectively reflect upon how events of the last few years have shaped the future direction of sex and gender identity data collection.

Keywords: measurement, questionnaire, sex, gender identity, LGBT populations, self-categorizing, gender scales


Empirical Fact or Measurement Failure? How to Interpret the Category 'Diverse' and Respondents Deviating in their Answer Regarding their Sex from the Population Register Information?

Dr Detlev Lück (Federal Institute for Population Research) - Presenting Author
Dr Nadja Milewski (Federal Institute for Population Research)

In 2021, a panel called "FReDA – The German Family Demography Panel Study” has started and meanwhile released its first data, collected in the recruitment survey in Spring 2021. This data collection has more than 37,000 respondents, aged 18 to 50, including 125 who have chosen the third answer category "Diverse, non-binary" in the question on sex. On the one hand, it seems obvious that this question should identify people who do not identify with the sex categories male or female. On the other hand, the question on sex (together with the questions on birth year and month) has been inserted in FReDA mainly for identifying interviews which have been filled out by a wrong person, since the sex (and birth date) is already known for the gross sample from the population register. We try to disentangle to what extent the question is actually capturing an empirical fact and to what extent a measurement problem. We do so by taking into account other indicators for the correct identity of the respondent and for the quality of the collected data as well as by comparing our findings with estimates from other sources on how many people do not identify with the binary sex categories. In the same way, we approach the phenomenon that some respondents deviate between their answer regarding their sex and the information on their sex in the population register. Such a deviation could represent a 'trans' person who has in fact changed his/her sex or at least the sexual identity. It also could represent a measurement problem.

Trends in gender inclusion: a cross-national examination of non-binary gender options in surveys from 2012-2022

Ms Laura Wronski (SurveyMonkey) - Presenting Author
Mr Sam Gutierrez (SurveyMonkey)
Ms Zoe Padgett (SurveyMonkey)

How gender identity been asked within surveys has undergone a drastic change within the past decade, evolving from a binary gender scale (male/female) to include non-binary gender options (non-binary, transgender, non-conforming, other, etc.). Analyzing millions of user-generated surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform, we explore the rise in prevalence of non-binary gender options across different countries and regions, as well as the most common terms used. In the US, for example, we find that the percentage of gender questions with binary answer options has fallen from 83% in 2012 to 36% in 2022. Because SurveyMonkey is available all around the world, we can take a country-by-country look at the patterns in how people ask about gender.

Do certain countries or geographic regions show different levels of non-binary gender inclusion within their surveys, and which terms are most common? Our findings will not only provide insight into the changing nature of gender identity within surveys, but also reflect shifts in societal expectations and norms surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. We also look at top answer options among non-binary gender answer options, from “other” and “transgender” to “non-binary” and other possible terms used.

Unfolding the multi-dimensional complexity of gender concepts

Dr Verena Ortmanns (German Institute for Adult Education - Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning ) - Presenting Author
Dr Ranjit K. Singh (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

Gender diversity is becoming more and more recognized in Western societies. In Germany, the introduction of a third sex designation (“divers”) for intersex people, leads to a comprehensive discussion on different aspects of gender diversity that is still going-on. Introducing a new category in a survey when asking respondents on their sex also raises uncertainties in the survey community and also among researchers.
However, it is likely that gender concepts and identities are more complex than what we can capture with a few, discrete categories. There are three main issues. First, gender related concepts may be continua instead of mutually exclusive group memberships. Second, we need to explore the dimensionality of gender concepts: Are masculinity and femininity two endpoints of the same dimension or a two-dimensional plane? Third, gender has many layers, such as identity, subjective experience, external perceptions, or public gender performative behaviour.
These questions require new survey instrument designs. To that end, we conducted an online experiment, where we fielded gender related questions, where respondents were able to finely grade their answer. We also provided separate scales for femininity and masculinity, to allow for two-dimensional respondent positioning. And lastly, we fielded four different question wordings, focusing on the four gender layers mentioned earlier. Respondents then saw two randomly selected question wordings of the four question wordings.
We hope to demonstrate the complexity of gender concepts that emerges if our response formats allow for it. We will present findings on whether respondents make use of the offered gradation, or if they cluster around extremes. We explore if a sizable portion of respondents chooses gender neutral, or gender ambivalent positions on the gender plane. And we explore how different layers of gender concepts relate to each other and how sensitive responses are to such differences in wording.