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Publication Detail
Sex and the Office for National Statistics: A Case Study in Policy Capture
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Sullivan A
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Political Quarterly
  • Status:
  • Language:
  • Notes:
    © 2021 The Author. The Political Quarterly published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Political Quarterly Publishing Co (PQPC). This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
On 17 March 2021, just four days before the England and Wales census date, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) conceded in a judicial review case. The case concerned the meaning of the sex question in the census, and the guidance to accompany this question. How did the ONS end up in court defending its guidance on a question which most people would deem self-explanatory? This article explains the legislative and political context around gender recognition, and the consequences for data collection. Drawing on my own experiences, I explore the politicisation of the definition of sex, and argue that the ONS gave undue weight to lobby groups with a particular viewpoint on sex and gender identity.
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