The latest data from the American Community Survey, the annual, more granular census survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, puts the number of same-sex couple households over one million for the first time. But since the census still doesn't ask the sexual-orientation question, we remain in the dark about how many actual LGBTQ people there are, single and coupled.
In the world of the U.S. Census, at least for the last decade and a half, the only data we have on LGBTQ identification comes from self-identified same-sex couple households — where a same-sex partner identifies as such in the American Community Survey, regarding their relationship to the "householder" of their household. It's a convoluted way of tracking a significant demographic in this country, but this is all we've got, at least census-wise.
And, the American Community Survey, while a trusted resource, is not the same as a full census — it relies on extrapolation and other data for its counts, as opposed to forms sent to everyone and household-by-household enumeration.
The Census Bureau put out a release last week announcing that in 2021, the number of same-sex couple households hit "around 1.2 million," crossing the million mark for the first time. Of these, around 60%, or 710,000, were married, and a half million were unmarried.
Some of the other demographic data on same-sex households is interesting. Same-sex couples are more likely than opposite-sex couples to be college educated. A larger share of same-sex married couples, almost 32%, were interracial, compared to 18% of opposite-sex couples. And, unsurprisingly given pay disparities, female same-sex households made less money than male same-sex households — $92,470 per year, compared to $116,800 per year, on average.
With 1.2 million same-sex households in the U.S., that means there are at least 2.4 million gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people in relationships — but there are far more LGBTQ people than that. Without Census data, researchers and advocacy organizations of the years have come up with their own numbers.
The Williams Institute at UCLA has been one of these for over a decade. They estimate that 3.5% of the U.S. adult population identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual — which equates to around 7.3 million. Another 0.3% identify as trans, according to the Williams Institute, or around 627,000.
In their research, the Williams Institute also says that "over half of LGB people identify as bisexual," and "Adults are 2 to 3 times more likely to say that they have same-sex attraction or have engaged in same-sex behavior than they are to identify as LGB."
A Gallup poll earlier this year came up with an even higher number, saying that 7.1% of American adults now identify as something other than cis and heterosexual. That would put the LGBTQ+ adult population at around 14.8 million. A big difference from the Williams Institute number! In fact, more than double.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) touts that "at least 20 million adults in the United States could be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender," or 8% of the adult population. They're basing that on the Census Bureau's own Household Pulse Survey conducted this fall — which is collecting "data on the social and economic effects of coronavirus on American households."
By American Community Survey estimates, San Francisco has the largest LGBTQ population in the country — as a percentage of the total city population, anyway — with around 135,000 people, or 15.4% of the city. The only cities with larger LGBTQ populations are New York, Chicago, and LA, but they represent only about 5% of the city as a whole in each case, so only slightly higher than the national average.
Maybe, just maybe, the Republicans won't be in power by the time the next Census happens, and we can finally, in fucking 2030, ask people to provide their sexual orientation and gender identity in a more nuanced fashion than M/F.
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