This page is optimized for a taller screen. Please rotate your device or increase the size of your browser window.

Inclusivity & Respect: Capturing Needed LGBTQ+ Data

June 20, 2022

Abt’s commitment to inclusion emphasizes the need for accurate and inclusive data collection that incorporates measures of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Improving these measures will help ensure that all population groups are included when organizations make decisions that are driven by the data we deliver. In 2021, the number of U.S. adults who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or as something other than heterosexual was 7.1 percent of the population, double what was measured in 2012. Driving this increase has been the large share of Generation Z members who identity as LGBTQ (20.8 percent), a share that is expected to increase as younger Americans reach adulthood.

In response, Abt’s Data Capture and Surveys Global Capability Center developed a SOGI Measurement Resource Guide to help ensure that our staff are using best practices when incorporating such questions into their surveys. These standards are based on the most up-to-date research in this area and will be updated as things change in this fluid environment. The guide offers advice not just on how to ask the questions, but also how to administer them, where to place them in a survey instrument, and when to ask them to ensure the data is collected with privacy, confidentiality, and accuracy. 

Why Is Inclusive and Accurate Measurement Important?

Demographic data is a key part of public sector decision making. When populations are not accurately represented in the data, they risk being overlooked when policy is crafted and our ability to disaggregate the results is limited. We know that LGBTQ+ populations face disparities in health, socioeconomic outcomes[3], and wellbeing, particularly among youth.[4] These disparities necessitate inclusive and accurate measurement. Given the increasing rate of LGBTQ identification among youth, for example, organizations supporting younger individuals need to be particularly mindful about collecting information that will help ensure LGBTQ+ youths’ needs are incorporated into their service offerings. One study found that 28 percent of LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness at some point in their lives, which can lead to other complications in mental health and risk behaviors and indicates this population should not be overlooked or marginalized when collecting data. 

To date, there is no federal or state requirement for government or government-funded data collection to include to include SOGI measures, and only four states (New York, California, Oregon, and New Jersey) mandate LGBTQ+ data collection in areas other than hate crimes. However, SOGI items have been successfully included in large population and federal surveys conducted by organizations including the National Health Interview Survey, National Health and Nutrition Examinations Survey, Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Abt is committed to supporting the Census Bureau, the National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies and research organizations administering general population surveys that are determining best practices for asking SOGI questions that balance inclusivity with accuracy.

When to Ask SOGI Questions

As researchers, we need to understand how, when, and where to ask these questions during our data collection efforts. Study design needs to balance the overlapping needs for inclusivity, privacy, and accuracy. Respondents may not want to disclose personal information; in some situations, doing so may even be dangerous. A history of facing homophobia, transphobia, trauma, and microaggressions can make answering these questions challenging if they seem superfluous or are asked in a way that indicates common biases. Consideration of the rationale for asking questions, how they relate to the research questions, and how the data will be stored and reported are critical before including SOGI questions in a survey.

The SOGI Measurement Guide ensures that Abt’s surveys reflect our commitment to inclusion through accurate, effective, and appropriate measurement of all gender and sexual identities. This will help give our clients and their programs the information needed to appropriately address these population groups’ needs when making data-informed decisions, and ensure they receive the consideration they deserve.

Work With Us
Ready to change people's lives? We want to hear from you.
We do more than solve the challenges our clients have today. We collaborate to solve the challenges of tomorrow.