Sex Harassment – How Common?

Sex Hysteria 2017. In the midst of the ongoing frenzy about sexual harassment, during which large numbers of prominent men have been accused and summarily fired and banished from employment, it might be useful and clarifying to touch the ground and look at actual facts.

From the frightening sweep and fury of the #MeToo movement, you might think sexual harassment is a desperate crisis, and all women need to stand up at last and stand together—against men. But how common is sexual harassment on the job?

I looked at the General Social Survey (GSS), a massive dataset of survey results on social characteristics and attitudes. The GSS represents four decades of on-going study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and is described as “the single best source for sociological and attitudinal trend data covering the United States.”

One of the questions asked by the survey is this:

In the last 12 months, were you sexually harassed by anyone while you were on the job?

In 2014, 2.6% of respondents answered “yes.” The results were not coded by gender, so this is the result for both men and women.

As far as I can tell, the GSS survey procedure did not define “sexual harassment” when asking the question, so the response presumably represents the respondent’s  own interpretation. So, according to their own understanding, 2.6% of men and women felt they were sexually harassed in some way on the job in the last twelve months.

Whether you think this number is high or low is a matter of personal interpretation, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem to be anything like a crisis.

Reference: General Social Survey, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago

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