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Census pushes to get LGBTQ+ Americans counted in key pandemic survey

By Anneken Tappe, CNN Business

Government statistics aren’t always inclusive and little data is currently collected on the LGBTQ+ community. But that might change as soon as next month.

The Census Bureau wants to begin including questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in one of its surveys, according to a Federal Register notice filed Thursday.

The questions would be added to the Household Pulse Survey, which asks about things like childcare, food security and household spending to learn how the pandemic is affecting America’s households.

It could be a first step to collect more inclusive and accurate data on America’s LGBTQ+ population. In last year’s decennial nationwide Census, married and unmarried same-sex couples were counted for the first time.

But there’s still a bit more bureaucracy to be dealt with before the questions end up in the survey, as the Office for Management and Budget has to OK the revisions. If it does, data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity could commence in late July, painting a more accurate picture of how LGBTQ+ Americans are dealing with life through the pandemic.

Other proposed additions under review include questions about the child tax credit, rent and mortgage arrears, preventive health care for children and summer catchup education.

Why data inclusiveness is so important

Government statistics are used to identify problems in the economy and help find policy solutions. Perhaps most importantly, the data help decide how government funds are distributed and where they are needed the most.

But if the stats don’t represent whole demographic groups, it’s a lot harder to write laws that benefit them.

Although private companies such as Gallup and academic institutions including the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute collect data on the LGBTQ+ community, those studies don’t carry quite the same weight in Washington, Cathy Renna, communications director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, told CNN Business earlier this month.

Including questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Household Pulse Survey could be a first step to rectify the lack of data and help the Commerce Department to better understand the collection of these statistics.

Some of the issues government entities seek to address by asking questions relating to gender and sexual orientation are sampling and reporting errors in a relatively small population.

But there are also worries about misreporting by other household members or misreporting by individuals who are not “out,” or who fear revealing personal information could impact them negatively. Including these questions in the Household Pulse Survey could provide useful information on how to allay some of these concerns.

— CNN Business’ Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.

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