New Study Places Number of LGBT Americans Near 9 Million

A new study from The Williams Institute and researcher Gary Gates places the number of LGBT Americans near 9 million.

I've posted the study report , AFTER THE JUMP...

Gates From the institute's press release:

The Williams Institute, a leading think tank dedicated to the field of sexual orientation and gender identity-related law and public policy, released new research that estimates the size of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the United States. Drawing on information from four recent national and two state-level population-based surveys, the analyses suggest that there are more than 8 million adults in the US who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, comprising 3.5% of the adult population. There are also nearly 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. In total, the study suggests that approximately 9 million Americans - roughly the population of New Jersey - identify as LGBT.

Noted study author Dr. Gary J. Gates: “Last week, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies released an analysis of LGBT health research calling for federal statistical agencies to quickly move toward LGBT inclusion in their data collection. The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the usefulness of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large-scale national population-based surveys. Better data can provide the building blocks for critical information to understand the lives of the 9 million LGBT Americans who have been historically marginalized in both society and research.”

The Washington Post reports:

In a telephone interview, Gates said that only recently have researchers doing surveys on health and social characteristics started asking respondents for their sexual orientation. Gates has argued that people should be asked their sexual orientation on many surveys that have nothing to do with sexual behavior, such as those involving crime, for example. He says only then will it be possible to more accurately gauge the size of the gay community.

“The number matters,” he said. “An unfortunate part of our political system is that you don’t really count unless you’re counted. LGBT Americans still are not routinely counted. That allows legislators and policymakers to say they really don’t matter much, because if they did, we’d have this data.”

Williams Key findings from the research brief are as follows: 

  • An estimated 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and an estimated 0.3% of adults are transgender.
  • This implies that there are approximately 9 million LGBT Americans, a figure roughly equivalent to the population of New Jersey. 
  • Among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay). 
  • Women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual. Bisexuals comprise more than half of the lesbian and bisexual population among women in eight of the nine surveys considered in the brief. Conversely, gay men comprise substantially more than half of gay and bisexual men in seven of the nine surveys.
  • Estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as LGB. An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.
  • Understanding the size of the LGBT population is a critical first step to informing a host of public policy and research topics. The surveys highlighted in this report demonstrate the viability of sexual orientation and gender identity questions on large national population-based surveys. Adding these questions to more national, state, and local data sources is critical to developing research that enables a better understanding of the understudied LGBT community.

Advocates and opponents of legislation have already begun spinning the numbers, the WaPo adds:

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) noted that the number was considerably smaller than estimates made by advocates of same-sex marriage. “Delegates in Maryland heard from their constituents,” he said. “That’s why same-sex marriage failed this year. Until there’s a wide acceptance of it across the state of Maryland, I don’t think those bills are going to be successful.”

Officials with Equality Maryland, which has lobbied hard for same-sex marriage to be legalized in the state, cited previous studies estimating that Maryland’s gay community has 178,000 people, including 15,000 couples. “Because folks are self-identified, the number is probably always a little lower than expected,” said Linsey Pecikonis, a spokeswoman for the group. “But I think having 9 million Americans be members of the LGBT community, that’s a fairly significant community.”

Would love to hear your comments on this study, particularly those of you with experience in this type of research.

I've posted the study report, AFTER THE JUMP...


Posted April 7, 2011 at 7:27am ETC by Andy Towle
in News, polls