We Are Here: LGBTQ+ Adult Population in United States Reaches At Least 20 Million, According to Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report

by Laurel Powell

According to an analysis of data in the Census Bureau’s recent Household Pulse Survey, 8% of respondents identified themselves as LGBTQ+, suggesting previous surveys undercounted the population.

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) released “We Are Here: Understanding the Size of the LGBTQ+ Community,” a report analyzing recent results from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Based on data from respondents in the Household Pulse Survey, a national household probability survey of adults in the United States, at least 20 million adults in the United States could be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender - nearly 8% of the total adult population, almost double prior estimates for the LGBTQ+ community’s size. It also suggests that more than 1% of people in the United States identify as transgender, higher than any prior estimates. Additionally, it confirms prior research showing that bisexual people represent the largest single contingent of LGBTQ+ people, at about 4% of respondents.

While many attempts have been made to document the size and demographics of the LGBTQ+ community in America, they have faced significant challenges. Sampling is difficult and bias also plays a role in respondents’ answers. In the most comprehensive and often-cited study of the LGBTQ+ community prior to today’s report, the Public Religious Research Institute’s (PRRI’s) American Values Atlas suggested that 4.4% of Americans identified as LGBTQ+. Today’s estimates nearly double that number - and may still be an undercount.

LGBTQ+ people are here - in every town, in every city, in each and every ZIP code. This data shows what we’ve suspected: our community is larger and more widespread than we could have known up to this point. We’re proud to bring this data to light and set the stage for a future where all the millions of LGBTQ+ people in America enjoy full legal and lived equality. I commend the Biden administration and the U.S. Census Bureau for finally allowing researchers to count us, and look forward to seeing the LGBTQ+ community counted in further studies."

Joni Madison, Human Rights Campaign Interim President

Some top-line data points from HRC’s report include:

  • Approximately 8% of respondents self-selected lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender when asked about their identity. A further 2% of participants “identify with a sexual orientation other than lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight.” This could encompass a number of other orientations such as pansexual, asexual, and others.

  • Data suggests more than 1%, or more than 2 million, people identify as transgender - an increase from prior estimates of approximately 1.4 million.

  • Bisexual people made up the largest single demographic, at about 4% of respondents.

  • California and Texas were the states with the largest number of LGBTQ+ adult residents, with an estimated 2.6 million and 1.7 million respectively.

  • LGBTQ+ people live in every community in every state. States less populated than California and Texas may tend to have a higher percentage of their population that identify as LGBTQ+.

While this represents tremendous progress in ensuring quality data collection about the LGBTQ+ community in the United States, much more can be done. As detailed in HRC’s “Blueprint for Positive Change,” the Census Bureau’s two largest surveys - the American Community Survey and the decennial U.S. Census - still do not ask questions about respondents’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Data from these surveys is used to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding each year, and the absence of SOGI questions negatively impacts support for the LGBTQ+ community.

For additional information about why accurate data collection is imperative in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, read HRC’s report, “LGBTQ+ Data Collection: A Life-Saving Imperative.” Additional information on the Household Pulse Survey can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau website. For more information on the HRC Foundation’s Public Education and Research Program, visit https://www.thehrcfoundation.org/about/public-education-research-program.

The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ+ community.

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