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LGBT Demographics

Beyond Will and Grace

Gary J. Gates
Williams Distinguished Scholar
Media and research images of
LGBT families are often distorted
• LGBT people live primarily on the coasts and
mostly in urban areas
• Few LGBT people partner and even fewer parent
• LGBT people are wealthy and white
• LGBT parenting is rare and a result of adoption or
reproductive technology
By the numbers: 2008 GSS
~ 9 million GLB or recent same-sex
sexual activity (3.8%)

Source: Author calculations, 2008 General Social Survey
Women more likely to
identify as bisexual

All 
(n=1,773) 2.5% 1.3% 3.8%

Women 
(n=964) 2.7% 1.9%** 4.6%*

Men 
(n=809) 2.2% 0.7%** 2.9%*

Lesbian/Gay Bisexual
**M/W difference is signficant at p<0.05
*M/W difference is significant at p<0.10 level
Younger people more likely to be
lesbian, gay, or bisexual
7.2%*
Bisexual
Lesbian/Gay
2.7%**

3.8%**

1.3%**

4.5%**
1.4%
2.5% 0.5%
0.9%

Age 18‐29 (n=199) Age 30‐54 (n=629) Age 55+ (n=601)
**Difference with 55+ is signficant at p<0.05
*Difference with 30‐54 is signficant at p<0.10
LGB people report higher
levels of education

26.3%**
College/Grad 37.3%
46.6%

High School/  61.0%** 15.8%
Some College
49.5%**

37.6%

<High School 12.7%** 13.2%**

Heterosexual (n=1,697) Lesbian/Gay (n=45) Bisexual (n=31)
**Difference with Bisexual is signficant at p<0.05
LGB, especially bisexuals,
very racially/ethnically diverse
Other 4.1% 6.8% 9.2%
13.8% 5.1%
Latino/a
18.2%
18.8%
African‐ 12.2%
American
White 23.2%

69.8% 69.3%

49.4%**

Heterosexual (n=1,697) Lesbian/Gay (n=45) Bisexual (n=31)
**Difference with Heterosexual is signficant at p<0.05
Most LGB people are out
but more so among L and G
Age when you first told someone about being LGB How many coworkers know that you
or having same-sex sexual experiences are gay, lesbian

3.8%**
12.8%
25.3% 23.8%
Never 33.5% None

48.8%
52.9%
52.9%
38.4%
52.8% Adult Some
41.1%

45.3%
43.3%
34.3% 37.8%**
<18 All
21.9% 25.4%

5.8%
LGB (n=64) Lesbian/Gay (n=35) Bisexual (n=29) LGB (n=42) Lesbian/Gay (n=24) Bisexual (n=18)
**Difference with Bisexual is signficant at p<0.05 **Difference with Bisexual is signficant at p<0.05

Source: Author calculations from General Social Survey, 2008
Counting same-sex couples
John and Tom consider 
X
themselves to be 
unmarried partners

X

Anita and Maria got 
X married in Iowa

X

X

Same‐sex spouses exceed 
counts of legally married 
couples by a factor of five.  
Do not interpret same‐sex 
X
spouses as legally married.
By the numbers: Same-sex couples in
the 2009 American Community Survey
• 581,300 same-sex couples
▫ 152,121 same-sex spouses (in all states)
x ~70,000 legally married same-sex couples
x ~90,000 same-sex couples in non-marital forms of
legal recognition
▫ 429,179 unmarried partners
Complex legal situation affects
Census/ACS responses
Interpreting Census/ACS responses
Not all same-sex couples are in
urban settings

Source: US Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey
District  Same‐sex couples 
(110th Congress) per 1000 households Congressperson
California‐8 35.80 Nancy Pelosi
New York‐8 20.70 Jerrold Nadler
California‐9 17.22 Barbara Lee
California‐12 16.52 Jackie Speier
Washington‐7 16.48 Jim McDermott
California‐5 14.78 Doris O. Matsui
Georgia‐5 14.63 John Lewis
California‐45 14.23 Mary Bono Mack
District of Columbia 14.12 Eleanor Holmes Norton
California‐53 13.82 Susan A. Davis
Cohabitation common among
lesbians and gay men

Carpenter, C and Gates, GJ. Gay and Lesbian Partnership: Evidence from California, Demography 45:3, August 2008.
Author calculations, 2008 General Social Survey
Many LGB people live in poverty
• National Survey of Family Growth (2002)
▫ 15% of gay men in poverty
▫ 24% of lesbians in poverty
• One in five children being raised by same-sex
couples lives in poverty (Census 2000)
Many same-sex couples are
economically disadvantaged

Source: Author calculations from American Community Survey, 2008
Many gay/lesbian people have had
or want to have children

Source: Author calculations from National Survey of Family Growth (2002) and General Social Survey (2008)
LGB people have their first child
earlier than heterosexuals

Source: Author calculations from General Social Survey, 2008
Child-rearing higher among
racial/ethnic minorities

Source: Author calculations from American Community Survey, 2008
Child-rearing inversely associated with
education in same-sex couples

Source: Author calculations from American Community Survey, 2008
Adoption/fostering is common
among LGB people
• More than 10% of same-sex couples with
children have an adopted child
▫ Compared to 4% of different-sex married couples
• ~65,500 adopted children with LGB parents
▫ 4% of all adopted children have LGB parent
• ~14,100 foster children with LGB foster parents
▫ 6% of all foster children have an LGB foster parent