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The importance of the photoelastic effect in controlling polarization in optical fibers is discussed. Measurements of the stress-optic coefficient, its dispersion, and temperature dependence are reported using a fiber measurement method. The results compare closely to data obtained for bulk silica by an extrapolation technique. It is shown that the dispersion of the stress-optic coefficient can have a significant effect on the performance of birefringent fibers and of fiber birefringent devices. Furthermore, the temperature dependence is sufficiently large to be troublesome in fiber sensors.