The Census Bureau is considering including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in its largest survey as part of a testing phase.

The U.S. Census Bureau has requested permission from the Biden administration to include inquiries regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in its extensive yearly survey on various aspects of life in the nation for individuals aged 15 and above.

The statistical organization aims to examine the phrasing, answer options, and positioning of inquiries related to gender identity and sexual orientation in the surveys conducted for the American Community Survey. This survey gathers information from 3.5 million households annually and covers various subjects such as family dynamics, income, educational attainment, employment status, commute duration, internet availability, disabilities, and military involvement.

The Census Bureau stated in a notice published in the Federal Register that federal agencies have a keen interest in the data for the purpose of enforcing civil rights and equal employment opportunities.

M. V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, stated that due to the extensive data provided by the American Community Survey, inquiring about these questions will enable researchers to analyze disparities among LGBTQ+ individuals. This analysis can help identify if certain groups encounter greater obstacles based on factors such as race, gender, or geographical location.

Badgett stated that by studying the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBT individuals, we can gain insights into their health, economic status, housing conditions, and other outcomes that may be negatively affected. Additionally, monitoring these changes over time can help determine the impact of laws and policies on promoting equality.

The Census Bureau has already sought funding to research the most effective way to inquire about sexual orientation and gender identity. This study could yield more accurate information regarding the LGBTQ+ community on a national scale, particularly during a period of changing perspectives on sexual orientation and gender identity. Being the largest statistical agency in the country, the bureau’s approach to these questions serves as a model for other organizations and businesses.

The bureau is specifically interested in investigating the manner in which responses are given by individuals who act as “proxies,” such as parents, spouses, or other household members who are not the subject of the inquiry.

Other federal agencies already ask about sexual orientation, primarily in health surveys conducted by trained interviewers with respondents answering for themselves. The much more widely circulated American Community Survey relies on proxies more.

Badgett explained that the data quality for younger individuals might not be as reliable since they might not have disclosed their sexual orientation to their parents or others who are responding to these questions on their behalf.

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