2900.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia , 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/11/2017  First Issue
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This variable records each person's sex as either male or female. It is applicable to all persons.

How this variable is created

Responses to the question 'Is the person male or female?' were captured automatically from mark box responses on the form so the risk of processing error is minimal. Images of this question is provided below.

If a form was received from a dwelling, but no response was recorded to the question, sex was imputed. Previously (including 2011 Census), sex was imputed using other information on the form, such as name, relationship or number of children. If sex could not be derived using this information, it was allocated at random. In 2016, if sex was missing on partially completed forms, it was imputed by checking if the person's legal spouse was recorded in the dwelling and whether they recorded their sex. If they did, then the opposite sex was assigned. Manual coding processes then allowed coders to assign sex based on name or other related information. Finally, for remaining records, sex was imputed and was allocated at random.

For private dwellings where a form was not returned and the number of males and females is unknown, two imputation processes are performed. Initially, these records have their number of males and females imputed using hotdecking. Then a second imputation (also using hotdecking) is run to impute the key demographic variables (age, marital status and usual address) for the newly created person records. Hot decking uses 'donor' records using selected criteria to assign sex.

If a person in a non-private dwelling did not return a form, their demographic characteristics are copied from another person in a similar non-private dwelling using Type of Non-Private Dwelling.

The variable Imputation Flag for Sex (IFSEXP) is new for 2016 and indicates if a person's sex was imputed in the Census. There are two categories:

01 Sex not imputed
02 Sex imputed

More information on imputations is available in the Glossary of the Census Dictionary and in Turning your information into Census data.

Variable history

A question on Sex has been asked at every Census since 1911.

In 2016, respondents had the option to respond as 'other sex'. If a person wanted to identify as other than male or female, they were instructed to call the Census Inquiry Service for information on how to identify on the Census forms. To respond online, they were given specific login details to access an alternate form which allowed them to select 'other' and could enter in information in a 'please specify' text box if they wished to provide more information. To respond on paper form, they were instructed to write on the right hand side of the response area and these were checked manually to record a respondent's 'other sex' category.

Non-response rate

A non-response rate is not available for Sex. As Sex is a key demographic variable it is imputed using other information on the form. The variable Imputation Flag for Sex (IFSEXP) indicates if a person's sex was imputed in the Census. Using the new Imputation Flag for Sex, the non-response rate for this variable was 5.7%. For more information, refer to Understanding Census data quality.

Data usage notes

Other sex

An analytical article will be released in October that details the outcome of providing 'other' sex response. All paper form responses that were potentially indicative of an 'other sex' response were manually checked, as it is possible for respondents making written comments in the form to be incorrectly identified as having selected 'other sex'.


In 2011, for some non-responding private dwellings Census Field Officers were able to obtain an estimate of the numbers of males and females staying in the dwelling and this was used as credible information to draw upon during the imputation process. This was not available in 2016 under the new collection method.

Further information

More information on Sex is available in the 2016 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0).
Reflecting Australia: Stories from the Census, 2016 will include a brief overview on Australia for results on 'other sex', with more comprehensive articles planned for later release in 2017.

Household form question image

Question 3 as it appeared on the 2016 Census Household Paper Form

Image: 2016 Household Paper Form - Question 3. Is the person male or female?

Question 2 as it appeared on the 2016 Census Household Online Form:

Image: 2016 Household Online Form -  Question 2. Is  <name> male or female?
A text only version of the online Census Household form is available from the Downloads tab.