Measuring Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity on the ACS

A recent working paper from the Census Bureau presented at the Conference of European Statisticians outlined the Bureau’s current work to test sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions on the American Community Survey (ACS).

The Bureau proposed in FY 2024 to dedicate some of its increased ACS funding in its budget proposal to “Research and test question wording on SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] topics, specifically for proxy response, response in self-response modes, and translation.” The Census Project explained this and other details in our FY 2024 funding recommendation.

“Not having population-level data from a census is one of the major challenges in studying the characteristics of the LGBTQIA+ population,” the paper authors explained. “The current research will consist of both cognitive and field testing. Cognitive testing will include testing of questions in English and translation and testing of questions in Spanish. Field testing will include self-response using both paper and internet modes and examine question wording, response options and placement. One important area of research this testing will illuminate is the quality of proxy reporting of SOGI information in demographic surveys.”

In addition to providing background, the working paper looks at key areas of concern for the SOGI content on a survey like the ACS, and emphasizes the need to “collect these important data about SOGI populations and to better represent the diversity of the American people,” while focused on collecting “the data as accurately as possible and in a way that maintains the integrity of the ACS as a descriptor of the people and communities of the United States.”

NPR also has a useful article related to this topic, “What the 2020 census can — and can’t — tell us about LGBTQ people.”

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