Saturday, July 19, 2014

CDC survey seems to give a lower count on the gay population, until you look at it more

The Centers for Disease Control has reported on the first ever large federal survey of sexual orientation. 
Just 1.6% of the surveyed adult population was gay or lesbian, and 0.7% was bisexual.  But 1.1% basically answered, “don’t know”.  The Washington Post has a typical story here.  The Blade has also reported on it Friday.  The CDC report is a “National Health Interview Survey” and “Statistics Report” and is published here.  It was conducted by workers from the Census. 

Previous reputable surveys have tended to come up with a total of 3-4%.  This does not include transsexuals, who number around 700000 in the US.  

The total number of adults who identify as somewhere in LGBT (including the “uncertains” or essentially asexual or inactive) is probably about 9 million, somewhat larger than the population of New York City.
The study did not breakdown by gender, or race.  Anecdotally, it seems that white people (especially males) may be more likely to identify as gay than people from racial minorities.  But the popularity of gay events and clubs with minorities has obviously, if slowly, increased in recent years.

People in higher income levels may also be more likely to self-identify. Coming from a conservative religious culture (especially overseas) probably reduces the likelihood of self-identification.

The large public response to the gay marriage issue in many states may lead to the impression that the population is larger.  So does the recent increase of portrayal of gay issues in Hollywood, as with the willingness of many younger actors (generally under 40)  to identify as gay or appear in or even direct gay-oriented films. 

Gay events, like Pride marches, are now well attended.  The recent NYC Parade, over 5 hours long, leaves the impression of a larger population. It’s common, however, for “straights” to come to parades.  In the Washington DC parade, in a couple of cases some young “straight” couples told me they came because a younger adult sibling of one partner was there. 

What is curious is a flip side, why in countries like Russia, conservative forces see homosexuality as such a threat to population levels and common competitiveness, which would not make sense if the population were only 2-3%.  (see posting Jan. 13, 2014). 

The survey suggested that gay men were slightly more likely to smoke than straight men, and drink (more than 5 times a day).  But gay men were likely to exercise more and (much) less likely to be overweight or obese.  Gay men were more likely to have been tested for HIV, but were also more likely to take flu shots.  
By observation, smoking is not as common as it was a few decades ago.  In the outdoor bar area at JR’s during DC Pride, relatively few men smoked.  (No I don’t keep track of who does.)  CDC has warned that tobacco companies target the LGBT community with ads. 

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