Best Practices for Asking Questions about Sexual Orientation on Surveys

Gary J. Gates, University of California, Los Angeles
MV Lee Badgett, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Population-based survey data are critical for assessing the need for and impact of public policies that address group disparities in health and social outcomes. Data that would allow scholars to assess whether and how life experiences differ by sexual orientation are limited, creating a large scientific research gap. The Ford Foundation supported a project designed to increase the quantity and quality of sexual orientation data. Over a five year period, a multidisciplinary team of social scientists met to identify the best scientific approaches to gathering data on sexual orientation within the context of population-based surveys. The team pooled decades of knowledge and experience, conducted new methodological research, and met with survey specialists. This paper summarizes their findings and offers best practices regarding measuring sexual orientation and analyzing data. Topics include: what to ask, where to ask it, and how to analyze data, all in the context of a diverse population.

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Presented in Session 165: New Data on Same- and Different-Sex Unions: Issues and Estimates