U.S. Census Bureau Proposes LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Annual Survey : Impacts & Insights

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Census Bureau LGBTQ+ Survey U.S.

Census Bureau’s New Initiative on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The U.S. Census Bureau has approached the Biden administration with a proposal to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity for individuals aged 15 and above in its most extensive yearly survey. The American Community Survey, which gathers data from approximately 3.5 million households annually, delves into various subjects, from family dynamics and income to education and employment. The Census Bureau has expressed its interest in this data for the purpose of civil rights and equal employment enforcement.

The Importance of Inclusive Data Collection

The vastness of the American Community Survey offers researchers the opportunity to observe disparities within the LGBTQ+ community. This includes understanding the unique challenges faced by individuals based on factors like race, gender, and location. M. V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, emphasized the potential to gain insights into the health, economic, and housing outcomes of the LGBT community. Such data can highlight the adverse effects of stigma and discrimination and track the impact of laws and policies on equality.

Proposed Questions on the Survey

For the sexual orientation segment, respondents would be prompted to identify the most accurate representation of someone in their household. The options would include “Gay or lesbian,” “Straight,” “Bisexual,” and an alternative term. Regarding gender identity, the question would inquire about the individual’s sex assigned at birth and their current gender. Presently, the census and ACS only focus on same-sex couples who are either married or cohabiting. Introducing these new questions would provide a broader perspective on the LGBTQ+ community, including those who are single or not living with their partners.

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Potential Impact and Considerations

Kerith Conron, the research director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, believes that this inclusion will offer a more comprehensive understanding of the LGBT community. This includes insights into the demographic and socioeconomic status of those not in same-sex couple households. The Census Bureau has already sought funds to research the most effective way to inquire about sexual orientation and gender identity. The outcomes of this research could significantly enhance the data on the LGBTQ+ community, especially given the evolving perceptions on these topics. The bureau is keen on understanding the responses given by “proxies” – individuals answering on behalf of someone else in the household.

Challenges in Data Collection

While other federal agencies have incorporated questions about sexual orientation, the American Community Survey’s reliance on proxy responses could pose challenges. Younger LGBTQ+ individuals who haven’t disclosed their orientation or identity to family members might be misrepresented if someone else answers on their behalf. This could potentially affect the quality of data, especially for younger respondents, as highlighted by Badgett.


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