LGBT demographics of the United States
The demographics of sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States have been more accurately studied in the social sciences in recent decades. In the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation, the NHIS reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent considered themselves bisexual. In a Williams Institute review based on an June-September 2012 Gallup poll, approximately 3.4 percent of American adults identify themselves as being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). An earlier report published in April 2011 by the Williams Institute estimated that 3.8 percent of Americans identified as gay/lesbian, bisexual, or transgender: 1.7 percent as lesbian or gay, 1.8 percent as bisexual, and 0.3 percent as transgender. The 2011 Williams Institute report also states that 8.2 percent of Americans reported that they had engaged in same-sex sexual behavior, and 11 percent reported some same-sex attraction. Studies from several nations, including the U.S., conducted at varying time periods, have produced a statistical range of 1.2 to 6.8 percent of the adult population identifying as LGBT. Online surveys tend to yield higher figures than other methods, a likely result of the higher degree of anonymity of Internet surveys, which elicit reduced levels of socially desirable responding.
Writing in the opinion section of The New York Times in 2013, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz estimated that roughly 5 percent of American men are "primarily attracted to men". First, using Facebook data and Gallup poll results, he correlated the percentage of men who are openly gay with their state of birth and residence. Second, he measured what percentage of Google pornographic searches were for gay porn. The first method gave between 1 and 3 percent. The second showed that roughly 5 percent of men search for gay porn in every state. The figure was slightly higher in states considered gay-tolerant than in others.
|State or Territory||2012 LGBT
|2000 to 2010
|38||1||District of Columbia||10.0%||632,323||48,057||3,678||4,822||31.10%||Legal|
|—||—||Total||3.8%||Total Population 313,914,039: Adult Population 238,574,670:||9,083,558 ||594,391||646,464||8.76%||—|
The American cities with the highest gay populations are New York City with 272,493, Los Angeles with 154,270, Chicago with 114,449, and San Francisco with 94,234, as estimated by the Williams Institute in 2006. However, one is much more likely to encounter gay residents in San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Boston as a higher percentage of those cities' residents are gay.
The U.S. metropolitan areas with the most gay residents are the New York, New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, New York metro with 568,903; followed by Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, California with 442,211; and the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin metro with 288,748.
The charts below show a list of the top U.S. cities (in alphabetical order), metropolitan areas, and states with the highest population of gay residents and the highest percentage of gay residents (GLB population as a percentage of total residents based on available census data). The numbers given are estimates based on American Community Survey data for the year 2000.
|New York City||1||—||4.5%||272,493|
By metropolitan area
LGB % Est.
LGB Pop. Est.
|1||San Francisco Bay Area||8.2%||4||256,313|
|2||Seattle Metro. Area||6.5%||11||154,835|
|4||Portland Metro. Area||6.1%||21||94,027|
|5||Tampa Bay Area||5.9%||16||119,044|
By consolidated metropolitan statistical area
|Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area||2006
|1||New York Metropolitan Area||568,903||2.6%|
|2||Los Angeles Metropolitan Area||442,211||2.7%|
|3||Chicago Metropolitan Area||288,748||3.2%|
|6||Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area||191,959||2.5%|
|7||Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex||183,718||3.5%|
|8||Miami Metropolitan Area||183,346||4.7%|
|9||Atlanta Metropolitan Area||180,168||4.3%|
Statistics by year
"Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation" published findings of 13.95% of males and 4.25% of females having had either "extensive" or "more than incidental" homosexual experience.
An extensive study on sexuality in general was conducted in the United States. A significant portion of the study was geared towards homosexuality. The results found that 8.6% of women and 10.1% of men had at one point in their life experienced some form of homosexuality. Of these, 87% of women and 76% of men reported current same-sex attractions, 41% of women and 52% of men had sex with someone of the same gender, and 16% of women and 27% of men identified as LGBT.
The American National Health Interview Survey conducts household interviews of the civilian non-institutionalized population. The results of three of these surveys, done in 1990–91 and based on over 9,000 responses each time, found between 2–3% of the people responding said yes to a set of statements which included "You are a man who has had sex with another man at some time since 1977, even one time."
The National Health and Social Life Survey asked 3,432 respondents whether they had any homosexual experience. The findings were 1.3% for women within the past year, and 4.1% since 18 years; for men, 2.7% within the past year, and 4.9% since 18 years.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute of sexually active men aged 20–39 found that 2.3% had experienced same-sex sexual activity in the last ten years, and 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual contact during that time.
Researchers Samuel and Cynthia Janus surveyed American adults aged 18 and over by distributing 4,550 questionnaires; 3,260 were returned and 2,765 were usable. The results of the cross-sectional nationwide survey stated men and women who reported frequent or ongoing homosexual experiences were 9% of men and 5% of women.
Laumann et al. analyzed the National Health and Social Life Survey of 1992 which had surveyed 3,432 men and women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 59 and reported that the incidence rate of homosexual desire was 7.7% for men and 7.5% for women.
A random survey of 1672 males (number used for analysis) aged 15 to 19. Subjects were asked a number of questions, including questions relating to same-sex activity. This was done using two methods—a pencil and paper method, and via computer, supplemented by a verbal rendition of the questionnaire heard through headphones—which obtained vastly different results. There was a 400% increase in males reporting homosexual activity when the computer-audio system was used: from a 1.5% to 5.5% positive response rate; the homosexual behavior with the greatest reporting difference (800%, adjusted) was to the question "Ever had receptive anal sex with another male": 0.1% to 0.8%.
Smith's 2003 analysis of National Opinion Research Center data states that 4.9% of sexually active American males have had a male sexual partner since age 18, but that "since age 18 less than 1% are [exclusively] gay and 4+% bisexual". In the top twelve urban areas however, the rates are double the national average. Smith adds, "It is generally believed that including adolescent behavior would further increase these rates." The NORC data has been criticised because the original design sampling techniques were not followed, and depended upon direct self-report regarding masturbation and same sex behaviors. (For example, the original data in the early 1990s reported that approximately 40% of adult males had never masturbated—a finding inconsistent with some other studies.)
In a telephone survey of 4,193 male residents of New York City, 91.3% of men identified as straight, 3.7% as gay, and 1.2% as bisexual. 1.7% said they were in doubt or were not sure and 2.1% declined to answer. 12.4% of men who responded to the sexual orientation question, reported sex exclusively with men in the 12 months prior to the survey. Most of them (~70%) identified as heterosexual.
The American Community Survey from the U.S. Census estimated 776,943 same-sex couples in the country as a whole, representing about 0.5% of the population.
Fried's 2008 analysis of General Social Survey data shows the percentage of United States males reporting homosexual activity for three time periods: 1988–92, 1993–98, and 2000–06. These results are broken out by political party self-identification, and indicate increasing percentages, particularly among Democrats (perhaps reflecting, in the authors' view, either a shift of political allegiance among gay Americans, or increasing likelihood of acknowledging a homosexual orientation).
Cornell University, carrying out research into sexuality amongst a representative sample of more than 20,000 young Americans, published that 14.4% of young women were not strictly heterosexual in behavior, a group that included lesbian and bisexual women; 5.6% of young men self-identified as being gay or bisexual. The percentage
- General Social Survey, 2008
The GSS's first survey asking interviewees directly about their sexual identification, it found 1.6% identified as gay or lesbian, 1.1% as bisexual, and 97.3% as heterosexual.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys interviewed a nationally representative sample of 11,744 adults aged 20 to 59 between 2003 and 2010. One hundred and eighty (1.5%) self-reported a homosexual orientation and 273 (2.3%) a bisexual one.
- General Social Survey, 2010
The GSS found that 1.2% of its interviewees identified as gay or lesbian, 1.4% as bisexual, and 97.4% as heterosexual.
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior surveyed nearly 6,000 people nationwide between the ages of 14 and 94 through an online methodology and found that 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
- General Social Survey, 2012
The GSS found that 1.5% of its interviewees identified as gay or lesbian, 2.2% as bisexual, and 96.3% as heterosexual.
A Gallup report published in October 2012 by the Williams Institute reported that 3.4% of US adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Minorities were more likely to identify as non-heterosexual; 4.6% of blacks, 4.0% of Hispanics and 3.2% of whites. Younger people, aged 18–29, were three times more likely to identify as LGBT than seniors over the age of 65, the numbers being 6.4% and 1.9%, respectively.
In the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation, the NHIS reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. 1.5 percent of women self-identify as lesbian and 0.9 consider themselves bisexual, while 1.8 percent of men consider themselves gay and 0.4 percent identify as bisexual.
The National Bureau of Economic Research study "The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated" found that about 20% of the population is attracted to their own gender.
- General Social Survey, 2014
The GSS found that 1.7% of its interviewees identified as gay or lesbian, 2.6% as bisexual, and 95.7% as heterosexual.
The Public Religion Research Institute survey of 2,314 Millennials found that 88% identified as heterosexual, 4% as bisexual, and 3% as gay or lesbian. In a separate question, 1% identified as transgender. In total, 7% of Millennials identified as LGBT. Three percent refused to identify their sexual orientation. The unaffiliated were more likely to identify as LGBT than the religious, as were Democrat-leaning Millennials compared to the Republican-leaning. No differences were found among the races.
In a nationally representative telephone survey of 35,071 Americans, Pew Research found that 1,604, or 4.6%, of the sample identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 32,439 (or 92.4%) as heterosexual, with the remainder refusing or being unable to provide an answer, or identifying as something else.
In a Yougov survey of 1,000 adults, 2% of the sample identified as a gay male, 2% as gay female, 4% as bisexual (of either sex), and 89% as heterosexual.
- Special Report: 3.4% of U.S. Adults Identify as LGBT
- Gates, Gary J. (April 2011). "How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?". Williams Institute, University of California School of Law.
- Charlotte J. Patterson (Editor); Anthony R. D'Augelli (Editor) (2012). Handbook of Psychology and Sexual Orientation. Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0199765218.
- Peter J Aspinall (2009). Estimating the size and composition of the lesbian,gay,and bisexual population in Britain (PDF) (Report). p. 13.
The Ellison and Gunstone online survey (2009) for the Commission of over 5,000 people indicates that all methods involving interviewing in a person’s home, whether face-to-face or by telephone, may incur misreporting, especially when another person is present. Respondents report that they would be least likely to conceal their sexual orientation (by switching to another sexual orientation category) when self-completion online surveys are used.
- Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. "How Many American Men Are Gay". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "LGBT Percentage Highest in D.C., Lowest in North Dakota". State of the States. Gallup Politics. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Numbers are from List of U.S. states and territories by population.
- "Decennial Census Data on Same Sex Couples". Same Sex Couples. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 June 2013..
- Williams Inst. Census Snapshot http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/category/research/census-lbgt-demographics-studies/
- "Decennial Census Data on Same Sex Couples". Same Sex Couples. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 June 2013..
- Main article: Same-sex marriage law in the United States by state. Includes explanation of color coding.
- 76% of Total Population over 18 2010 US Census http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010/br-03.pdf
- 3.8% of Adult population
- Gary J. Gates PDF (2.07 MiB). The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, UCLA School of Law October, 2006. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
- Note: the study cited is unclear as to the exact metro NY area that is included; on table 5, page 8, "New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island" is included, but in Appendix 2, page 15, Pennsylvania also seems to be included as it states "New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, New York–NJ–PA"
- American Community Survey 2000
- Gary J. Gates, PhD (October 2006). "Same-sex Couples and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Population: New Estimates from the American Community Survey" (PDF). The Williams Institute. The Williams Institute. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- McWhirter, David P., Sanders, Stephanie A., & Reinisch, June Machover(Eds.). (1990). Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation. The Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Laumann, Edward O. (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. University of Chicago Press. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-226-47020-7.
- Dawson, D. & Hardy, A.M. (1990–1992). National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, Advance Data, 204, 1990–1992.
- Summary of The National Health and Social Life Survey ("The Sex Survey")
- John O.G. Billy, Koray Tanfer, William R. Grady, and Daniel H. Klepinger, The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, vol. 25, no. 2 (March/April 1993). Guttmacher Institute home page
- Janus, Samuel S. & Janus, Cynthia L. (1993). The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T., and Michaels, Stuart (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 297.
- Turner CF, Ku L, Rogers SM, Lindberg LD, Pleck JH, Sonenstein FL (May 1998). "Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: increased reporting with computer survey technology". Science 280 (5365): 867–73. doi:10.1126/science.280.5365.867. PMID 9572724.
- American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior
- Preeti Pathela; Anjum Hajat; Julia Schillinger; Susan Blank; Randall Sell; Farzad Mostashari (2006). "Discordance between Sexual Behavior and Self-Reported Sexual Identity: A Population-Based Survey of New York City Men" (PDF). Annals of Internal Medicine 145: 416-425.
- Fried, Joseph, Democrats and Republicans – Rhetoric and Reality (New York: Algora Publishing, 2008), 10.
- "Sax on Sex: The emerging science of sex differences". Psychology Today. 3 April 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- GSS Data Explorer (Report). Retrieved 6 July 2014.
-  CNN.com. Retrieved on 2011-02-10.
- Susan D. Cochran; Frank C. Bandiera; Vickie M. Mays (2013). "Sexual Orientation–Related Differences in Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among US Adults Aged 20 to 59 Years: 2003–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys". American Journal of Public Health 103 (10): 1837-1844.
- National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu. Retrieved on 2010-10-26.
- Gates, Gary J.; Newport, Frank (October 18, 2012). "Special Report: 3.4% of U.S. Adults Identify as LGBT". Gallup.
- A Survey of LGBT Americans (PDF) (Report). Pew Research. 13 June 2013. p. 24.
- Katherine B. Coffman; Lucas C. Coffman; Keith M. Marzilli Ericson (2013). The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated (Report).
- Rose Eveleth (October 24, 2013). "What Percent of the Population is Gay? More Than You Think". Smithsonian.com.
- Robert P. Jones; Daniel Cox (2015). How race and religion shape Millennial attitudes on sexuality and reproductive health (PDF) (Report).
- America’s Changing Religious Landscape (PDF) (Report). Pew Research. May 12, 2015. p. 87. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
- Yougov report (PDF) (Report). Yougov. 21 August 2015.