Estimating the U.S. Transgender Population: Evidence from Federal Administrative Records

Benjamin C. Harris, U.S. Census Bureau

This paper evaluates changes in individuals' first names and sex-coding in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) records to estimate the size of the U.S. transgender population. I present two estimates: the conservative estimate derives from coincident and corresponding changes in sex-coding and first names from one gender to another. Because the SSA requires proof of sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) to change coding of sex, this estimate only identifies the subset of transgender people who undergo surgery. The inclusive estimate counts individuals whose name changes are consistent with gender transition, but who have not necessarily changed their sex-coding. I estimate nearly 25,000 adults who were alive in 2010 had undergone SRS. However, nearly 360,000 adults had name changes consistent with gender transition, suggesting that most transgender people do not undergo SRS. Furthermore, I explore paths by which people legally transition as well as trends in transgender-consistent claims approved by the SSA.

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Presented in Poster Session 6: Population Aging; Gender, Race and Ethnicity