Jun 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal COVID survey to request sexual orientation, gender identity for first time

Photo of a person holding a sign facing away from the camera and wearing a cap that says LGBTTTIQA
Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld via Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau's weekly Household Pulse Survey, which has collected information on household experiences throughout the pandemic, will request respondents' sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time, the agency announced Thursday.

Why it matters: State and federal data have historically excluded LGBTQ experiences, hiding the disparities that harm the community. The pandemic has only worsened those disparities, experts say, making inclusive data collection key to understanding LGBTQ Americans' needs.

  • Data compiled by advocates have shown that LGBTQ Americans, especially young adults, are facing a heightened risk of mental health issues, homelessness and lost income due to the pandemic, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.
  • "The Department is committed to ensuring that the data collected by the Household Pulse Survey continue to meet information needs as they may evolve over the course of the pandemic," the Census Bureau wrote in its notice.

What they're saying: Data on LGBTQ people is "notoriously hard to come by," according to Gillian Branstetter, media manager at the National Women's Law Center. Breaking down data by sexual orientation and gender identity should be "very revealing," she tweeted.

  • "Because LGBTQ people are often invisible when it comes to data collection in a variety of contexts, including health care, that has really limited our ability to get out information about what’s going on," Jesse Ehrenfeld, the American Medical Association’s former board chair, told CNBC last fall.

What's next: The general public and other federal agencies are invited to provide comment on the revisions, which the agency intends to implement around July 21.

Worth noting: The move comes amid a wave of GOP-led state legislature bills targeting trans rights in health care and sports.

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