Bias from potentially mischievous responders on large-scale estimates of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ)-heterosexual youth health disparities

Joseph R. Cimpian*, Jennifer D. Timmer, Michelle A. Birkett, Rachel L. Marro, Blair C. Turner, Gregory L. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Objectives. To determine how sensitive estimates of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ)-heterosexual youth health disparities are to the presence of potentially mischievous responders. Methods. We used US data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, pooled across jurisdictions that included a question about sexual identity for a total sample of 148 960 students. We used boosted regressions (a machine-learning technique) to identify unusual patterns of responses to 7 screener items presumably unrelated to LGBQ identification, which generated an index of suspected mischievousness. We estimated LGBQ-heterosexual youth disparities on 20 health outcomes; then we removed 1% of suspected mischievous responders at a time and re-estimated disparities to assess the robustness of original estimates. Results. Accounting for suspected mischievousness reduced estimates of the average LGBQ-heterosexual youth health disparity by up to 46% for boys and 23% for girls; however, screening did not affect all outcomes equally. Drug- and alcohol-related disparities were most affected, particularly among boys, but bullying and suicidal ideation were unaffected. Conclusions. Including screener items in public health data sets and performing rigorous sensitivity analyses can support the validity of youth health estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S258-S265
JournalAmerican journal of public health
StatePublished - Nov 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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