News (USA)

Census Bureau hopes to test questions on LGBTQ+ identities in its largest annual survey

Checkbox Gay. The answer is in the test. Pen on a white sheet of paper.
Photo: Shutterstock

The U.S. Census Bureau wants to start asking about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) on its American Community Survey (ACS), its largest survey. ACS is sent annually to approximately 3.5 million households across the nation to collect demographic information and provide a comprehensive, ongoing view of the American public.

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau asked permission from the Biden administration to begin testing SOGI questions for respondents 15 and older. Right now, the survey only asks about same-sex couples who are married or living together.

The Bureau published a notice in the Federal Register explaining that these questions will help determine equal employment and civil rights enforcement. Surveys like this one help the government determine what kind of public assistance certain communities need, and it helps inform how discrimination is affecting marginalized groups.

“We can learn about health, economic, housing and other outcomes that might be worse for LGBT people because of the stigma and discrimination that they face, and we can track changes over time to see if laws and policies are leading to more equality,” economics professor M. V. Lee Badgett, told the Associated Press.

One big question is how members of a household will answer for others. If a parent or spouse is filling out a survey about their family, they may not know the accurate orientations or identity.

“Younger LGBT people might not yet be out to their parents or others who are answering these questions as a proxy reporter,” said Badgett. “So the quality of the data might not be as good for younger people.”

Testing for these questions will include experimenting with the questions’ wording, placement, and response categories.

The ACS is sent at random to about 2% of American households each year. Those who are selected are required by law to complete it.

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