Saturday, April 23, 2016

Demography of sexual orientation and gender identity

The rise of legal same-sex marriages, headlines about hate crimes and concerns about potential differences in health have been among the factors driving increased interest in gathering better data about gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans, as well as those who are transgender. (This work includes our own survey in 2013.) This week, several dozen members of Congress urged lawmakers to pressure the Census Bureau to expand its data collection about people who identify with these groups.

A growing wave of research is happening, or on the way, according to presentations at a session on new ways of gathering data on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the past five years, 10 federal agencies have collected data about sexual orientation, and five about gender identity, but not all questions were worded the same, according to information gathered by a federal interagency working group.

In July, the National Crime Victimization Survey will begin asking survey respondents ages 16 and older about their sexual orientation and gender identity. The survey, fielded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, includes 90,000 households a year. The new data will provide information about victimization risks for these groups, and about their access to victim services. But statistician Jennifer L. Truman cautioned that these groups are so small that there may not be a large enough sample to report annual statistics.

The California Health Interview Survey added test questions about gender identity in 2014, and incorporated the ones that worked best in 2015. Adding these questions to a survey did not generally anger respondents or confuse them, said Matt Jans of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. People did not break off interviews, for example, because they were upset about being asked about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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