June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and NCES is proud to share some of the work we have undertaken to collect data on the characteristics and well-being of sexual and gender minority populations.
Inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on federal surveys allows for better understanding of sexual and gender minority populations relative to the general population. These sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data meet a critical need for information to understand trends within larger population groups, and insights gained from analysis of the data can lead to potential resources and needed interventions being provided to better serve the community. Giving respondents the opportunity to describe themselves and bring their “whole self” to a questionnaire helps them to be seen and heard by researchers and policymakers.
Sometimes, NCES is asked why questions like this appear on an education survey. They can be sensitive questions for some people, after all. NCES asks these questions to be able to understand the different experiences, equity, and outcomes related to education for sexual and gender minorities, just as NCES does for groups identified by other demographic characteristics like race, ethnicity, household income, and what part of the country someone lives in. By sexual minorities, we mean people who report their sexual orientation to be something other than straight or heterosexual, and by gender minorities, we mean people whose sex as recorded at birth is different from their gender.
Over the past 10 years, NCES has researched how to best ask respondents about their sexual orientation and gender identity, how respondents react to these questions, and the quality of data that NCES has collected on these characteristics.
At NCES, several studies include background questions for adults about their sexual orientation and gender identity. These are the High School Longitudinal Study: 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-up in 2016, the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B) 08/18 and 16/21 collections, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) in 2020, and the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) 2020/22 (see table below for more details about these surveys).
The collection of these data allows NCES to describe the experiences of gender and sexual minority individuals. For example:
- In 2020, postsecondary students who identified as genderqueer, gender nonconforming, or a different identity had difficulty finding safe and stable housing at three times the rate (9 percent) of students who identified as male or female (3 percent each).1
- In 2018, about 10 years after completing a 2007–08 bachelor’s degree, graduates who were gender minorities2 described their financial situations. Graduates who were gender minorities were less likely to own a home (31 percent) or hold a retirement account (74 percent) than graduates who were not gender minorities (63 percent and 87 percent, respectively) (figure 1).3
Figure 1. Percentage of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients who owned a home, had a retirement account, reported negative net worth, and did not meet essential expenses in the past 12 months, by gender minority status in 2018
NOTE: “Retirement account” includes both employer-based retirement accounts such as 401(k), 403(b), and pensions, and non-employer-based retirement accounts such as individual retirement accounts. Respondents are considered to have negative net worth if they would still be in debt after selling all their major possessions, turning all their investments and other assets into cash, and paying off as many debts as they could. “Did not meet essential expenses” refers to being unable to meet essential living expenses such as mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, or important medical care. “Past 12 months” refers to any of the 12 months preceding the interview. Gender minority indicates whether the respondent’s gender identity differed from the sex assigned at birth. Gender identity categories include male; female; transgender, male-to-female; transgender, female-to-male; genderqueer or gender nonconforming; a different gender identity; and more than one gender identity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/18).
- In the 2017–18 school year, 18 percent of public schools had a recognized student group that promoted the acceptance of students’ sexual orientation and gender identity, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). This was an increase from the 2015–16 school year, in which 12 percent of schools reported having a GSA.4
- For 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates with a full-time job in 2018, straight people reported higher average salaries than either lesbian/gay or bisexual people.
NCES is committed to collecting data about equity in education and describing the experiences of SGM students, graduates, and educators.
To learn more about the research conducted at NCES and across the federal statistical system on the measurement of SOGI, please visit the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) website and check out these two presentations from the FCSM 2022 Research and Policy Conference: How do you Describe Yourself in the Workplace? Asking Teachers about their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in a School Survey and Assessing Open-Ended Self-Reports of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Is There Room For Improvement?.
By Maura Spiegelman and Elise Christopher, NCES
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data).
 On the NCES surveys mentioned above, gender identity categories include male; female; transgender, male-to-female; transgender, female-to-male; genderqueer or gender nonconforming; a different gender identity; and more than one gender identity.
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/18).
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 and 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS).