Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Estimating the Size of the LGBT Population

"Do you consider yourself to be heterosexual?"

If you ask that question directly on a survey, you get one answer. If you ask it indirectly in a way that veils an individual's response to the specific question, you get another answer. This is the experiment described in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. Using the veiled survey method, in which respondents simply note the number of statements that apply to them (one of them being the statement about heterosexuality), the researchers found much greater LGBT identity than with the direct approach. "The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65%," the authors report.

Because their sample was not representative of Americans as a whole, the researchers did not attempt to ascertain the LGBT share of the population. Instead, the study sought to show how survey methodology affects self-reports of LGBT identity. Interestingly, the veiled methodology also revealed greater anti-gay sentiment than is found in surveys that ask about anti-gay feelings directly. "Our finding that there is stigma attached to reporting anti-gay sentiments is perhaps even more surprising," conclude the authors.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-gay Sentiment Are Substantially Underestimated, NBER Working Paper 19508 ($5)

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