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Working Paper Number RSM2018-05
Jessica L. Holzberg, Renee Ellis, Matthew Virgile, Dawn V. Nelson, Jennifer Edgar, Polly Phipps, Robin Kaplan
Component ID: #ti1236028488


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 the ability and willingness of respondents to answer SOGI questions in the context of an employment survey and via proxy reporting, where one person generally responds for all eligible members of the household. To address these goals, researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and U.S. Census Bureau conducted 132 cognitive interviews and four exploratory focus groups. The purpose of this report is to document results of these focus groups, which were conducted with transgender respondents to explore the feasibility of asking about gender identity in the CPS.

Overall, feedback from focus group respondents highlighted a number of obstacles to accurate collection of gender identity in the CPS through proxy response, for which there is no clear solution. Beyond just finding question wording that is understandable and relatable for the heterogeneous transgender population, there are also concerns about the accuracy of reporting and sensitivity of the task. That said, the transgender respondents we spoke to agreed that gender identity would be valuable information to have available on a large-scale government survey such as the CPS.

We find it important to emphasize that these focus groups are exploratory, and we were limited in our ability to fully explain the CPS to respondents and the context in which gender identity questions would appear. Respondents were not administered the CPS interview, and thus we were unable to see how transgender respondents would react to being asked to answer these questions in context. Therefore, opinions expressed in the focus groups were more hypothetical in nature.

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