Best practice for tracking gender of survey respondents?

A reader sends the following query:
Is there any consensus on the best method for asking gender information on surveys? I’m reviewing a proposal for a research committee, and their approach is “A. Male B. Female C. Other”. On the one hand, hooray for having more than 2 options. On the other hand, “Other” is kind of, well, ‘othering’.
My suggestion would be to leave a blank that participants can fill in as they wish, but don’t know if there are other approaches.

6 thoughts on “Best practice for tracking gender of survey respondents?

  1. At the University where I work (in french), we chose to change the question to “what gender do you identify with…” (instead of “what is your gender” and we use “Male” “Female” “I don’t want to answer” “Other”

  2. It’s a separate issue from which options to offer, but it’s often a bad idea to put this question at the start of a survey because it makes gender salient and can affect the other answers.

  3. On a faculty survey I was involved in organizing recently, we chose “neither” rather than “other.” The thought was that “neither” implies a rejection of normative gender categories and so is less (and perhaps not) perniciously othering.

    We chose not to leave a blank space for people to fill in since it would have in an important respect undermined the purpose of the survey — to aggregate responses. It seems plausible, too, that people who are not a part of normative gender categories might have some meaningful similarities relevant to the questions of the survey even if their genders differed.

  4. I’ve used a blank and people have liked this. However, it does make it more labour-intensive to analyse the data.

  5. In my surveys, I use “female,” “male,” and “I don’t identify as female or male.” I don’t have statistical power to do any analyses with the third category, but I almost always have at least one respondent choosing that option.

  6. Hi, See the article by Gilbert (2009) Defeating Bigenderism in Hypatia 24 number 3. It has a 5 fold classification on page 100 which includes Chosen Sex Category. If you have a problem locating the article I can send a PDF

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