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Created: June 29, 2003
Latest Update: June 29, 2003

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Demographics: An Important Control Variable

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Demographics are with us so often, so clearly, that we tend to take them for granted, and not to notice them. Demographics are data that divide us into categories: age, race, sex, ethnicity, professed religion, income, education, social class, etc. Because so many of these variables are either visible, or the sort of information easily obtained, sometimes even socially acceptable for the asking, we forget to think of them as variables. But they are characteristics of an individual. They are easily adapted to simle mathematical models, like M / F, and then fairly easily measured.

In the early seventies it was terribly disconcerting for some of us to encounter young people in jeans, garish tops, long hair, "hippie" beads or other adornments, when we discovered that we did not know whether the young person was male or female. We were so used to identifying sex by a dress code that we were nonplussed to discover we couldn't tell which one of us should emit a wolf whistle of appreciation.

In research, and in making lived experience judgments, we need demographic data. . . .