Every Forest Has Its Shadow: The Demographics of Concealment in the United States

Maria S. Grigoryeva, Blaine G. Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines what people conceal, who conceals from whom, and whether there are demographic differences in how much and what people conceal. We map concealment using a two-wave probability survey and behavioral experiment of U.S. adults (N = 1, 281). Our survey measures self-reports of 37 different concealable attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics over a 12-month period, whereas the experiment provides a concrete behavioral measure of concealment. These data yield four principal findings. First, misinformation is commonplace in the United States, but it varies depending on what is being concealed. Second, certain demographic characteristics, such as age, predict rates of concealment, the proportion of things concealed, and lying in a behavioral experiment. Third, most demographic groups are similar in how much they conceal, but all demographic groups differ in what they conceal. Fourth, although some types of strong ties are more likely to be targets of concealment than weak ties, there is greater heterogeneity in concealment across different kinds of strong ties than between strong ties and weak ties, with spouses and partners being concealed from the least, on average. We conclude by discussing implications for theory and research on concealment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-378
Number of pages39
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - 2024


  • behavioral experiment
  • concealment
  • demographics
  • nationally representative probability sample
  • online survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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