The Case for Non-Binary Gender Questions in Surveys

The Case for Non-Binary Gender Questions in Surveys

By Mike Medeiros, University of Amsterdam, Benjamin Forest, McGill University, Patrik Öhberg, University of Gothenburg

LGBTQ activists and academics advocate the use of non-binary gender categories to include individuals who identify as neither rigidly male nor rigidly female to reflect the increasing number of people who do not place themselves in these two conventional classes. Although some general-population surveys have begun using non-binary gender questions, research has not examined the consequences of using (or not) a question with non-binary gender categories in surveys and censuses. Our study addresses this gap using a survey experiment in which respondents in the United States, Canada, and Sweden randomly received a binary or a non-binary gender question. We find no evidence of negative reactions to the non-binary question. Moreover, when there is a statistical difference, the reactions are positive. We thus conclude that general-population surveys could use a non-binary question without facing significant adverse reactions from respondents.

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