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September 23, 2010

IconGay population in Britain revealed

The percentage of gay Britons is much smaller than initially thought, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

In the study, around 1.5% of the total population identified as gay, which is much lower than the commonly cited 5%-7% used by ministers when debating the civil partnerships legislation.

This equates to approximately 481,000 people in the UK who identify as lesbian or gay, and 242,000 who identify as bisexual.

The research also found that London housed the highest concentration of gay people (2.2% of the population), with only 0.9% located in Northern Ireland.

The study  was based on 450,000 interviews, making it the largest study of its kind.

In addition, the figures revealed that gay people were more likely to be in managerial or professional occupations than straight people with 49% in such roles compared to 30% of straight workers. LGBs were also better educated, with the statistics showing that 38% hold a degree.

More than 45% of the gay community cohabits, the study revealed, although only 8% live in a household with at least one child. A third of bisexual households have at least one child.

[Story edited for clarity 24 Sept 2010]

5 Responses to Gay population in Britain revealed

  1. Annie says:

    “of the 450,000 people interviewed – the largest such study of its kind – around 481,000 identified as gay or lesbian”
    How can more people identify as gay or lesbian than actual number of people interviewed? Where did the extra 31,000 gay/lesbians come from?

  2. Martijn says:

    It’s not completely Chloe’s fault. This article copied the data straight from the official publication:

    “The IHS data indicate that for April 2009 to March 2010 95 per cent of adults (46,922,000 people) identified themselves as heterosexual/straight, 1 per cent of adults (481,000 people) identified themselves as gay or lesbian and 0.5 per cent of adults (245,000 people) identified themselves as
    bisexual while a further 0.5 per cent (242,000) identified themselves as ‘Other’.”

    The IHS gives many different numbers on the same page:

    * “The IHS sampling frame covers
    the whole United Kingdom with around 450,000 respondents interviewed in the 12 month period.”
    * “[This method of questioning resulted] in a total of
    247,623 eligible adults to be asked the sexual identity question.”

    I’d need to invest more time in reading to actually tell you what the IHM means…

    • Chloe.Setter says:

      Thanks for that Martijn! As much as I’d like to think that that many people identify as gay or bisexual, it was a slight error on my part (I’d like to blame the ONS’s badly written press release, the fact I had a slight hangover at the time of writing, and my maths teacher from school). Anyhow, to clarify: the research was based on 450,000 interviews and based on this, they reckon that 1% of the UK population, which translates as 481,000, identify as lesbian or gay, with 0.5% saying they are bisexual (242,000). The number of interviews was just the basis for their claims when applied to the population as a whole.

  3. Cathryn says:

    This is an interesting study, but I think that figure is probably still at least a little low.

    For starters, probably many of the 0.5% identifying themselves as ‘other’ could fit under the umbrella of ‘queer’, so that makes maybe 2% already if you’re not saying strictly ‘gay or bisexual’.

    Not to mention the fact that probably a significant portion of the 3.3% who declined to answer the question are other than straight.

    Instead of looking at this and saying ‘only 1.5% are gay’, we could just as easily say ‘only 95% are straight’.

  4. Martijn says:

    @Cathryn: that’s not completely right. First of all, those 3.5% are not one group but are actually three subgroups:

    * People who stated ‘Don’t know’,
    * people who refused the question, and
    * people who provided no response.

    The first two of these make up for 3% and the second is another 0.5%.

    In the official documentation they go out of their way to say the following: “interviewers were advised to code as refusal instances where a respondent did not volunteer an answer to the question but reacted in a way indicating embarrassment or offence, such as total silence. Even when it appeared that the respondent was likely to be heterosexual as this could not be assumed with complete certainty.” My guess is they had to put quite a number of heterosexuals down in that category for them to make special note of it.

    I would recommend everyone to take a look at the report, but I would repeat what I said on Facebook when I shared the link: Non of it is easy to comprehend so I wouldn’t try to read it unless you know something about statistics, censuses and the English language. and it’s the second PDF you want to take a look at.


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