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New Household Pulse Survey Data Reveals Differences between LGBT and Non-LGBT Respondents During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) respondents to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS) were more likely than non-LGBT respondents to experience economic and mental health hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2021, the Census Bureau began collecting information on the sexual orientation and gender identity of respondents to its Household Pulse Survey.

Now, a new visualization explores respondents’ answers across four cycles of pooled HPS data from July 21 to September 13.

The HPS asks questions about sex at birth, current gender identity, and sexual orientation. Combined, the responses to these three questions help provide some insight into the nation’s LGBT adult population.

A larger share (38.2%) of LGBT respondents than non-LGBT respondents (16.1%) experienced depression for more than half of the days in a week.

The first part of the visualization explores the sex assigned at birth, gender identity, and sexual orientation questions separately, as well as in combination.

In addition, the visualization shows how the LGBT and non-LGBT populations compare across demographic and economic characteristics:

  • Nearly a quarter (24.6%) of LGBT respondents were 18-24 years old, compared to 7.3% of non-LGBT respondents.
  • A higher share (21.3%) of LGBT respondents than non-LGBT (15.9%) respondents were Hispanic. 
  • Over half (59.4%) of LGBT respondents were never married, compared to 22.7% of non-LGBT respondents.

The final section of the visualization shows how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the economic well-being and mental health of both populations:

  • 13.5% of LGBT respondents lived in a household that experienced food insecurity compared to 7.4% of non-LGBT respondents.
  • Nearly a quarter (21.6%) of LGBT respondents reported the loss of employment income in their household compared to 16% of non-LGBT respondents.
  • Nearly half (47.9%) of LGBT respondents reported experiencing anxiety for more than half of the days in a week compared to 23.5% of non-LGBT respondents.
  • A larger share (38.2%) of LGBT respondents than non-LGBT respondents (16.1%) experienced depression for more than half of the days in a week.

Defining LGBT

Survey respondents are categorized as LGBT if they:

  • Report a sex at birth that does not align with their current gender identity.
  • Report a sexual orientation of gay, lesbian or bisexual.
  • Currently identify as transgender.

Respondents whose sex at birth aligns with their current gender identity and who select Straight on the sexual orientation question are categorized as “non-LGBT.”

Respondents who select None of these on the current gender question and either Something else, I don’t know or Straight on the sexual orientation question are categorized as “other."

Additionally, respondents whose sex at birth aligns with their current gender identity but who select either Something else or I don’t know on the sexual orientation question are also categorized as “other."

Near Real-Time Data From HPS

The HPS is designed to provide near real-time data on how the pandemic has affected people’s lives. Information on the methodology and reliability of these estimates can be found in the source and accuracy statements for each data release.

Data users interested in state-level sample sizes, the number of respondents, weighted response rates, and occupied housing unit coverage ratios can consult the quality measures file, available at the same location.   

The table below shows the number of invitations sent, number of responses, and weighted response rate for each collection period.



Part of the Census Bureau’s Experimental Data Product series, the HPS was designed to have low respondent burden, provide quick turnaround on product releases and produce estimates that meet urgent public needs.

Survey questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity aim to understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across different subpopulations.

Because the HPS is designed to rapidly produce experimental estimates, caution should be exercised when using these survey questions as standalone markers of the prevalence of LGBT adults in the general population. All estimates discussed here were calculated from a public-use microdata file.

Data highlighted in this story were collected during Phase 3.2 of the HPS, which ran from July 21 to October 11, 2021. Data collection for Phase 3.3 of the survey is currently scheduled to begin in December 2021 and the SOGI questions will continue to be included.

When the survey resumes, the HPS will continue to be sent to about one million households every two weeks. If selected, you will receive an email from COVID.survey@census.gov or a text message from 39242. Additional information is available on the HPS respondent website.


Lydia Anderson, Thom File, Joey Marshall, Kevin McElrath and Zachary Scherer are statisticians in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.



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The U.S. Census Bureau is the leading source of statistical information about the nation’s people. Our population statistics come from decennial censuses, which count the entire U.S. population every ten years, along with several other surveys.



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