219842 Measuring sexual identity on federal health surveys

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 8:45 AM - 9:00 AM

Heather Ridolfo , National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD
Kristen Miller, PhD , National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD
Patterns of poorer health have been noted for sexual minorities, specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, leading to the establishment of a reduction in health disparities by sexual identity groups as a federal priority in the United States. However, sexual identity is a complex concept to measure as it is a multi-dimensional construct, rooted in social and political contexts, and changes (sometimes multiple times) over the course of individuals' lives. Furthermore, as a subjective phenomenon, what actually constitutes sexual identity varies immensely among individuals. Community ties, cultural and political values, friendship relations as well as sexual behavior and desire have all been identified as central components of sexual identity. Consequently, individuals' sexual identities do not necessarily conform to discrete, objective, and uniformly-defined categories. Our goal, then, is to construct a question that most accurately reflects this construct, produces little response error and is relevant and accessible to respondents. In this paper we present findings from several question evaluation projects, which assessed questions used to measure sexual identity, focusing on how diverse groups of respondents interpret and respond to these questions. Data for these projects include qualitative data from cognitive interviews, as well as quantitative survey data. While findings indicate that sexual identity is complex phenomenon to capture on a survey questionnaire, we provide strategies for improving question validity.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Assess questions used to measure sexual identity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author on the content I am responsible for because I evaluate survey questions for federal health surveys.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.