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Assessing the Feasibility of Asking About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Current Population Survey: Results from Cognitive Interviews

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Working Paper Number RSM2018-06


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, in which 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 the cognitive interviews which were conducted across four locations with a fairly even split between LGBT/ non-LGBT respondents.

Overall, feedback in these cognitive interviews suggests that most respondents do not find SOGI questions difficult or sensitive to report for themselves or for others in their households, and that few raised objections to these questions in the context of the CPS. However, perceptions of difficulty for self and others in the household were more frequent among LGBT respondents. While there were not many consistent demographic trends, we found that most of the respondents who had difficulty and sensitivity with the SOGI questions were lesbian, gay, or bisexual, often being unable to align their self-identity with the response options provided; this was especially true for transgender respondents.


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