Using Ancillary Sociodemographic Data to Identify Sexual Minority Adults among Those Responding "something Else" or "don't Know" to Sexual Orientation Questions

Academic Article


  • Background:General population surveys are increasingly offering broader response options for questions on sexual orientation-for example, not only gay or lesbian, but also "something else" (SE) and "don't know" (DK). However, these additional response options are potentially confusing for those who may not know what the terms mean. Researchers studying sexual orientation-based disparities face difficult methodological trade-offs regarding how best to classify respondents identifying with the SE and DK categories.Objectives:Develop respondent-level probabilities of sexual minority orientation without excluding or misclassifying the potentially ambiguous SE and DK responses. Compare 3 increasingly inclusive analytic approaches for estimating health disparities using a single item: (a) omitting SE and DK respondents; (b) classifying SE as sexual minority and omitting DK; and (c) a new approach classifying only SE and DK respondents with >50% predicted probabilities of being sexual minorities as sexual minority.Materials and Methods:We used the sociodemographic information and follow-up questions for SE and DK respondents in the 2013-2014 National Health Interview Survey to generate predicted probabilities of identifying as a sexual minority adult.Results:About 94% of the 144 SE respondents and 20% of the 310 DK respondents were predicted to identify as a sexual minority adult, with higher probabilities for younger, wealthier, non-Hispanic white, and urban-dwelling respondents. Using a more specific definition of sexual minority orientation improved the precision of health and health care disparity estimates.Conclusions:Predicted probabilities of sexual minority orientation may be used in this and other surveys to improve representation and categorization of those who identify as a sexual minority adult.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Medical Care  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Elliott MN; Dahlhamer JM; MacCarthy S; Beckett MK; Orr N; Guerino P; Agniel D; Saunders CL; Schuster MA; Ng JH
  • Start Page

  • E87
  • End Page

  • E95
  • Volume

  • 57
  • Issue

  • 12