Trends in Sexual Orientation Missing Data Over a Decade of the California Health Interview Survey

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We explored changes in sexual orientation question item completion in a large statewide health survey.


We used 2003 to 2011 California Health Interview Survey data to investigate sexual orientation item nonresponse and sexual minority self-identification trends in a cross-sectional sample representing the noninstitutionalized California household population aged 18 to 70 years (n = 182 812 adults).


Asians, Hispanics, limited-English-proficient respondents, and those interviewed in non-English languages showed the greatest declines in sexual orientation item nonresponse. Asian women, regardless of English-proficiency status, had the highest odds of item nonresponse. Spanish interviews produced more nonresponse than English interviews and Asian-language interviews produced less nonresponse when we controlled for demographic factors and survey cycle. Sexual minority self-identification increased in concert with the item nonresponse decline.


Sexual orientation nonresponse declines and the increase in sexual minority identification suggest greater acceptability of sexual orientation assessment in surveys. Item nonresponse rate convergence among races/ethnicities, language proficiency groups, and interview languages shows that sexual orientation can be measured in surveys of diverse populations.

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