Media Advisory: Federal Government Rolls Back Important Data Collection on LGBT Populations

Media Advisory:
March 29, 2017

Media Contact:
Noel Alumit,
Office: 310-794-2332
Cell: 323-828-5554

Federal Government Rolls Back Important Data Collection on LGBT Populations

Los Angeles – On March 28, 2017, the Trump Administration removed “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as proposed subjects for possible inclusion on the Decennial Census and/or American Community Survey in the future. “Given another recent move to take such questions off a federal survey and administrative form, there appears to be a new policy or practice to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity measures from federal data collection efforts,” said Adam Romero, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Without federal data on LGBT populations, the ability of federal, state, and local governments to make evidence-based public policy that also reflects the experiences and needs of LGBT Americans is significantly undermined.

In a March 2017 report to Congress on “Subjects Planned for the 2020 Decennial Census and the American Community Survey,” the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that both sexual orientation and gender identity were “proposed” subject matter. On March 28, 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau released an updated report in which the only change appears to have been the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as proposed subject matter.

Additionally, the Administration for Community Living of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to remove a sexual orientation question from the 2017 version of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity information from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, which serve people with disabilities.

For many years, the Williams Institute—among other organizations and individuals—has urged the federal government to expand and improve its data collection on LGBT populations. The Williams Institute has also produced widely-cited best practices for collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information on population-based surveys. A federal interagency working group convened during the Obama Administration explained the need for such data: “[T]here remains a lack of data on the characteristics and well-being of these groups. In order to understand the diverse needs of SGM [sexual and gender minorities] populations, more representative and better quality data need to be collected.”

Under the Obama Administration, several federal surveys successfully added sexual orientation and/or gender identity measures. “Economists, sociologists, demographers, and health scholars are learning about LGBT people’s economic challenges, family situations, and health disparities by analyzing existing federal data. This research raises issues that are relevant to many areas of federal policy. It’s essential that we include more questions on sexual orientation and gender identity on surveys—not fewer,” said Lee Badgett, Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“The federal government relies upon many surveys and systems that collect de-identified demographic data in order to monitor, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of the U.S. population; currently, about a dozen health and criminal justice surveys collect sexual orientation identity information and about half as many collect information about transgender people,” said Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “We have a long way to go before we are adequately assessing and responding to the needs of LGBT people, particularly given higher observed rates of poor health and poverty among this group.”



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