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The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated

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  • Katherine B. Coffman
  • Lucas C. Coffman
  • Keith M. Marzilli Ericson

Abstract

Measuring sexual orientation, behavior, and related opinions is difficult because responses are biased towards socially acceptable answers. We test whether measurements are biased even when responses are private and anonymous and use our results to identify sexuality-related norms and how they vary. We run an experiment on 2,516 U.S. participants. Participants were randomly assigned to either a "best practices method" that was computer-based and provides privacy and anonymity, or to a "veiled elicitation method" that further conceals individual responses. Answers in the veiled method preclude inference about any particular individual, but can be used to accurately estimate statistics about the population. Comparing the two methods shows sexuality-related questions receive biased responses even under current best practices, and, for many questions, the bias is substantial. The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65% (p

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine B. Coffman & Lucas C. Coffman & Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2013. "The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated," NBER Working Papers 19508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19508
    Note: HC LS PE POL
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    Cited by:

    1. Edoardo Ciscato & Alfred Galichon & Marion Gousse, 2014. "Like Attract Like? A Structural Comparison of Homogamy Across Same-Sex and Different-Sex Households," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/10gq8jbaid8, Sciences Po.
    2. Nicola Lacetera, 2016. "Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts," NBER Working Papers 22673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Julio J. Elias & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2015. "Sacred Values? The Effect of Information on Attitudes toward Payments for Human Organs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 361-365, May.
    4. Botti, Fabrizio & Conte, Anna & D'Ippoliti, Carlo, 2015. "Not so classy after all: Identity utility and the risk of discrimination of LGB people," MPRA Paper 65125, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario & Mele, Angelo, 2014. "Viral Altruism? Generosity and Social Contagion in Online Networks," IZA Discussion Papers 8171, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Elisabetta de Cao & Clemens Lutz, 2015. "Measuring attitudes regarding female genital mutilation through a list experiment," CSAE Working Paper Series 2015-20, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    7. James N. Druckman & Mauro Gilli & Samara Klar & Joshua Robison, 2015. "Measuring Drug and Alcohol Use Among College Student-Athletes," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 96(2), pages 369-380, June.
    8. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo, 2016. "Field Experiments on Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 22014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Botti, Fabrizio & D’Ippoliti, Carlo, 2014. "Don’t ask don’t tell (that you’re poor). Sexual orientation and social exclusion in Italy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 8-25.
    10. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Pai, Mallesh M. & Suziedelyte, Agne, 2017. "Mental health stigma," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 57-60.
    11. Leonardo Bursztyn & Michael Callen & Bruno Ferman & Saad Gulzar & Ali Hasanain & Noam Yuchtman, 2014. "Identifying Ideology: Experimental Evidence on Anti-Americanism in Pakistan," NBER Working Papers 20153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2016. "Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2895-2929, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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