Gender is changing rapidly in the twenty-first century, with boundaries becoming more mutable, liminal, and flexible. Survey-based research can help identify sites of gender inequality at the population level, but much of its implementation still reflects a narrow and flat categorization of individuals into two groups: male and female. Social constructionist and interactional approaches have been more successful in handling the major social changes that have taken place in terms of gender, but methodology in survey-based research has not yet caught up to qualitative work. Scholars of race and ethnicity have managed to incorporate embodied dimensions into large-scale survey research on inequality, but demographers interested in gender still lag behind.
In two studies using data from a probability-sampled general health survey, I present approaches more deeply at gender inequality, employing a richer palette of gendered dimensions. The first approach looks at the analytic payoff of expanding gender categories, while the second approach looks at the added benefits of going beyond categories and looking at gender dimensionally, based on an informative flaw in the design of a general health survey. Through these two approaches, I aim to preserve the possibility of conducting empirical research that scales to the population level, and to enable deeper analyses other intersections of identity and inequality.
Danya Lagos is an NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 2019. Danya's research focuses on improving the operationalization of gender in social demography to include embodied characteristics, interactional classification processes, and changes in identity over time. Danya has pursued this intervention through studies published in Demography and forthcoming in the American Sociological Review that compare social and health patterns among transgender, cisgender, and gender-nonconforming populations in the United States.