Friday, May 05, 2006

How do you count a married homosexual? Census methodology for geeks and gays

The construction of census questions is a matter of keen interest for the historical profession. Social historians, in particular, love to pore over the manner in which questions have been phrased, instructions given to census-takers, etc. One of my former professors at the University of Ottawa, Chad Gaffield, is currently co-directing a massive project examining the turn-of-the-century censuses. The census is a crucial source for historians - and I'll take this opportunity to request that anyone reading this check the box allowing your data to be made public in 92 years.

Moving on to the main reason for this post...

Yesterday I filled out the census. It was my first time doing so, and I got to do the long form. It wasn't until this morning though, that I discovered that there is a minor controversy involving the collection of marriage data, which has been highlighted by EGALE. It seems that Statistics Canada doesn't quite know what to do with us married gay folks. While filling out Question 6, I blithely ticked off "legally married husband or wife" to indicate my husband's relationship to me in the online census form. I didn't even think there would be another acceptable answer. However, it turns out that the paper version is asking same-sex married couples to tick "other" and then write in your status in the provided box. Perhaps the online version does too, but I didn't notice anything on the main page to indicate that I was making a mistake. (According to EGALE, if you did what I did, StatsCan says that you will still be counted correctly, and EGALE is urging you to do just that)

This state of affairs, frankly, is ridiculous. Same-sex marriage has been legal for three years in some provinces, and throughout the country for a year (and it was coming down the pipeline long before then). There is no good excuse as to why this could not have been properly incorporated onto the forms. EGALE is asking people to write in to StatsCan to treat same-sex married couples equally, as the legislation requires. I suspect that this won't have a big impact, since the next census is another five years away. But if you want to express your moral outrage, then feel free to do so!

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1 Comments:

At 10:08 am, Anonymous Maurice said...

That is bizarre! I'm not married, but when I filled out the census online, I just assumed that my friends who were same-sex married were to simply state "married" etc. But I have another bee in my bonnet as far as the online census is concerned: the fact it requires Java. From my point of view (which is that of a geek), that's just plain wrong.

 

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