Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sexual orientation and the National Health Interview Survey [Updated three times]

Article: Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2013
National Health Statistics Reports. Number 77. July 15, 2014. From the CDC.

[with updates, below]

So, before you read any further, guess the percentage of Americans who self-identify as homosexuals.

The number I heard as a young adult were those from the Kinsey Reports and the Masters and Johnson reports: about 10% of the American population was homosexual.

About 10-15 years ago, I begin hearing numbers below 5%, then settling around 3%.  

If you base your numbers on the proportion of gay/homosexual characters on TV shows, you might think between 10-20%.  [Update: according to the article linked first, over 30% of Americans think that the percentage of homosexuals in the US is 25%.]
Based on the 2013 NHIS data, 96.6% of adults identified as straight, 1.6% identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% identified as bisexual. The remaining 1.1% of adults identified as ‘‘something else,’’ stated ‘‘I don’t know the answer,’’ or refused to provide an answer.
As to the health aspects:
1) On average, people who self-identified as straights smoked less, drank to excess less and got less exercise than those who self-identified as homosexual.
2) On average, people who self-identified as straights and homosexuals had the same levels of obesity and virtually the same levels of "serious psychological distress in [the] past 30 days."

The latter is good news because people on both sides of the "homosexuality is right/wrong" issue have made the case that homosexuals suffer more psychological distress than straights.

Update #1: Why aren't there more gay people?
This is an interesting take on the research above from a conservative atheist.

His major point is that, based on the numbers, the Christian right, the mild left, and the radical left all have reasons to over-state the number and cultural impact of homosexuals.

In effect, the religious right and the cultural left have formed a kind of Baptist-and-bootlegger coalition to inflame this particular cultural issue beyond its actual importance in the real word. A conservative friend of mine recently noted to me how bizarre it will be a decade from now to find out that still just 2 percent of Americans are gay, that perhaps 15 percent of them are married, and that the country overturned millennia-old traditions and had a huge culture war to accommodate the sensitivities of about half a million people.
Update #2: How Many Americans Are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual?

A New York Times interview with Gary J. Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, specializing in the LGBT population.

Dr. Gates believes the survey above does underestimate the LGBT population because of stigma (especially among bisexuals) and because the survey did not measure gender identity.

The problem with the first objection is that the numbers for gay/lesbian people in the US has remained stable for over 30 years, while the stigma has mostly been removed. His percentages are much higher than the "consensus" numbers (over twice the size). Both sets of numbers cannot be correct.

The second objection, for me, is probably explained by the small numbers for those of alternate gender identity. The margins of error on the survey would probably be larger than the numbers of people who identify, so it would not be statistically valuable to ask those questions. The survey would need a much larger population of people surveyed (and, therefore, be much more expensive).

Update #3: State agencies launch LGBT data-collection effort

New York state wants 8 state agencies to collect volunteered data from people about their sexual orientation.
O’Connell [Dan O’Connell, director of the state Health Department’s AIDS Institute] said the new data collection effort represents a transformation in the way the state and the government treat non-heterosexual New Yorkers.
“You’re taking something that 40 years ago was a crime and we’re at a place where people are openly talking about it,” he said. “It’s an important moment and what this shows is that we want this to be as routinely captured as any other information we gather about any other human being.”
It has been the left, progressives, that have argued to keep the government out of the bedroom. Now they advocate for it? 

Why does anyone want the government to know their sexual orientation?

I realize that many people view the government as good, and kind, and beneficent. But every government has abused its power, and this program certainly has its potential for abuse.

No comments:

Post a Comment