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Assessing the Feasibility of Asking About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Current Population Survey: Executive Summary

Working Paper Number RSM2018-02
Jennifer Edgar, Polly Phipps, Robin Kaplan, Jessica L. Holzberg, Renee Ellis, Matthew Virgile, Dawn V. Nelson


In 2016, the Department of Labor sponsored research to explore the feasibility of adding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The emphasis of the research was on asking SOGI questions in the context of an employment survey and via proxy reporting, in which one person generally responds for all eligible members of the household. Researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and U.S. Census Bureau conducted a total of 132 cognitive interviews and four focus groups to evaluate respondents’ ability and willingness to answer SOGI questions about themselves and others in their household in the context of a Federal government survey on employment. The cognitive interviews were conducted both with respondents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and with those who were not, while the focus groups were conducted with transgender respondents. Respondents in both the cognitive interviews and focus groups were recruited to include a range of demographic characteristics, and data were collected in four locations in order to explore geographic differences. The overarching goal of the project was to determine whether asking SOGI questions in the CPS is feasible – in other words, whether resources should be committed to pursuing additional research. Extensive analysis of the data collected was performed, resulting in two independent reports documenting the focus group and cognitive interview. This document serves as a high-level summary of the findings. Readers are encouraged to read the full reports because, as with all exploratory research, the results can be complex.


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