Government asks for $10M to study how to ask about sexual orientation

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The United States Census Bureau is requesting at least $10 million to fund research and development on how to ask citizens about their sexual orientation and identity.

The money, which would be spent over several years, would be used to test different wordings for the question, examine response patterns, and craft the most succinct questions for the American Community Survey.

The census and its questions are often used as guides or referenced by other government agencies when crafting their own questionnaires for employees or the public. 

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FILE – This April 5, 2020, photo shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya / AP Newsroom)

A major consideration in crafting new questions for the U.S. Census is that many citizens' information is reported via proxies. This includes parents, spouses, heads of household and more.

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Proxies often fill out census information for everyone in their home, and how proxies describe the sexual identities of others in their house is another area of consideration.

The wording and details of the question could have cascading ramifications on how the government asks about sex and sexuality for years to come.

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FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2019, file photo a worker gets ready to pass out instructions in how fill out the 2020 census during a town hall meeting in Lithonia, Ga. Facebook says it won’t allow interference with the U.S. census on its platform, includin (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is currently discussing legislation that could require federal surveys to provide more nuance on sexual identity questions.

Population estimates released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that eight of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. lost population during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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