By Alejo Maggini
Disaggregating LGBTQIA+ Data

The City of Los Angeles (LA) Mayor’s Office of International Affairs assigned a team of six students to draw on the best practices of other cities and new data sources to improve measures of impact, inclusion, and representation of LGBTQIA+ Angelenos in city services. John Hammer ‘21 and Alejo Maggini ‘22 represented Occidental College and reported to the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office for International Affairs



The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promise to “leave no one behind,” yet the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community was not specifically included in the SDGs. Even as the international framework fails to directly mention LGBTQIA+ populations, local governments have the flexibility to localize the global goals to fit their local priorities and values. The City of Los Angeles has taken the initiative to adjust target and indicator language to include the LGBTQIA+ community in its localization of the SDGs.

In the summer of 2020, The City of Los Angeles (LA) Mayor’s Office of International Affairs assigned a team of six students from the University of Southern California, the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, and Occidental College to draw on the best practices of other cities and new data sources to improve measures of impact, inclusion, and representation of LGBTQIA+ Angelenos in city services under the guidance of a faculty advisor Professor Sofia Gruskin (Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, University of Southern California).



The team began by identifying cities that have localized the SDGs and are leading the way on issues of LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Starting with a list of over fifty potential cities to learn from, we narrowed down to a final list of seven cities to directly engage with through interviews based on the following criteria:

  • Cities that have completed a Voluntary Local Review,
  • Cities that are part of an international network (e.g. Rainbow Cities or Ciudades Arcoiris),
  • Cities that are internationally recognized for being LGBTQ-friendly by the Wellbeing Index,
  • Cities with robust data collection systems and performance indicators for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity,
  • Cities with strong LGBTQIA+ programming (e.g. Casa Trans in Buenos Aires),
  • Cities with programs or structures that can be replicated in Los Angeles,
  • Cities with existing LGBTQIA+ governance structures (e.g. dedicated commission, office or staff), and
  • Cities with pre-existing relationships with the LA Mayor’s Office of International Affairs.

The final list of cities identified for interviews was: Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Mannheim, Mexico City, New York City, São Paulo, and Seattle. Not all cities met each criterion point, but internationally these seven met the most qualities we were looking for. We were successful in contacting and interviewing government representatives in all of the cities except for São Paulo. The city interviews were instrumental in identifying six key best practices for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in city services:


  1. Membership in an international LGBTQIA+ network, such as Rainbow Cities or Ciudades Arcoiris, promotes city governments to develop creative policies, programs, and partnerships and prioritize the needs of their LGBTQIA+ community through peer-to-peer learning on the operationalization of LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Membership also serves as a form of soft power, as it globally signifies the city as a progressive, and LGBTQIA+-friendly environment.
  2. It is critical to prioritize intersectionality in LGBTQIA+ initiatives because queer people often experience multiple forms of discrimination. When people who represent multiple backgrounds can have a voice in designing programming and policies, more of the LGBTQIA+ community can be represented and served. Cities that show international leadership in LGBTQIA+ inclusion emphasized an intersectional lens as an essential part of their strategy.
  3. Cities that have an LGBTQIA+ office or agency run by permanent staff members have stronger programs and services, and a greater ability to advocate for funding and policies than commissions or other mechanisms.
  4. Staff and representatives often utilize their pre-existing community connections to promote and create programs and services and gather information on the needs of LGBTQIA+ people.
  5. Using language that is gender-neutral, and trans- and non-binary-inclusive on official reports and websites and in policies supports the equal representation of people of all gender identities.
  6. Many cities interested in doing so struggle to collect consistent data on their LGBTQIA+ population because of underfunding or federal regulations that prohibit questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Cities who have worked with community organizations to design and promote voluntary surveys, and have also collected qualitative data, such as stories, to guide their work have found ways around these restrictions.



Building on our key findings from data collection and interviews with the cities, the team sought to identify disaggregated data sources for the City of Los Angeles to use in the measurement of LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in the localized SDG framework. Currently, the Los Angeles Sustainable Development Goals framework has five indicators that collect data on the LGBTQIA+ community:

5.x.1 and 10.x.1: Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‐discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

10.x.2: Proportion of students who feel that LGBTQ students are accepted at their school.

10.x.3: Whether or not there are centralized protocols for updating sex/gender in official certifications

11.1.1: Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements, or inadequate housing (disaggregated for sexual orientation and gender identity)

These indicators demonstrate the City’s commitment to ensuring that all Angelenos, especially the LGBTQIA+ community, are not left behind. Creating additional indicators to understand the experience of the LGBTQIA+ community in Los Angeles and disaggregating current indicators for LGBTQIA+ can strengthen the City’s ability to better address the needs of LGBTQIA+ Angelenos. At this time, the team proposes 20 indicators (tabulated below) for the City to incorporate into the SDG framework. This final list of indicator disaggregations was identified based on the following criteria:

  1. Indicator is quantitative, statistical, and measures human data
  2. Indicator measures an outcome that is relevant to LGBTQIA+ (via literature review)
  3. A data source is available that can provide a disaggregation: 
  • Data source is reliably updatedData source is open-source
  • Data source measures Los Angeles as a sample unit
  • Data source measures some LGBTQIA+ demographic data
  • Data source can directly inform what the indicator describes

SDG Indicator

Description of Indicator

Data Source


Proportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age



Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions



Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population



Proportion of population with access to fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhood



Number of new HIV infections per 100,000 uninfected population, by sex, age and key populations



Hepatitis B incidence per 100,000 people



Mortality rate attributed to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease



Suicide mortality rate



Proportion of adults with current depression who are receiving counseling from a mental health professional for the disorder



Harmful use of alcohol (aged 15 years and older) within a calendar year in litres of pure alcohol



Coverage of essential health services



Proportion of population with asthma



Age-standardized prevalence of current tobacco use among persons aged 15 years and older



SDG Indicator

Description of Indicator

Data Source


Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex



Proportion of students who (a) feel safe on school grounds and (b) feel safe in the neighborhood outside the school



Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age



Proportion of people living below 50 per cent of median income, by sex, age and persons with disabilities



Proportion of persons victim of physical or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months



Proportion of population subjected to (a) physical violence, (b) psychological violence and (c) sexual violence in the previous 12 months



Proportion of eligible voters registered by demographic




As the City of Los Angeles looks to the future, the team recommends the following points for future study:

  • Consider the current responsibilities and purview of the Gender Equity Office, and expand its mission to include a more inclusive understanding of gender and its subsequent impact on trans and non-binary communities.
  • Continue communication and collaboration with Interview Case Studies cities to determine best practices and collective efforts on LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Conduct further research of the LGBTQIA+ initiatives, and consider conducting interviews, with the following cities: Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, London, Pittsburgh, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, and Toronto.
  • Reexamine Voluntary Local Review city programs and data collection practices to determine whether progress has been made on LGBTQIA+ inclusion. LGBTQIA+ initiatives in emerging VLR cities should also be analyzed. Specific examination should be given to Buenos Aires’ data collection and programs for SDG 5 (Gender Equality).
  • Join an international LGBTQIA+ city network, potentially Rainbow Cities or Red Latinoamericana de Ciudades Arcoiris. Additionally, continue fostering connections with the LGBTQIA+ initiatives in other US cities such as Seattle, New York City, and Pittsburgh.
  • Develop forums with civil society organizations similar to the ones exposed in the City Case Studies section, to involve the voices of LGBTQIA+ Angelenos in the development of programs and policies. Additionally, collect data from forum participants through voluntary surveys.
  • Recognizing the importance of intersectionality in Los Angeles’ future LGBTQIA+ mission, specific emphasis must be placed on racial equity within the initiative.



Written by Alison Schulte

Graphical representations by Kush Shanker


Team Members:

John Hammer and Alejo Maggini Occidental College,

Alison Schulte, Kush Shanker, and Nhi Trinh University of Southern California 

Lily Sarvestani Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University

Contact the John Parke Young Initiative on the Global Political Economy
Johnson Hall

The McKinnon Center for Global Affairs