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Most studies I've seen show self reports around 1-4% of the population report as being homosexual. Is this true?

From the answer below: Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults, 2013

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    It would be nice if the answer pointed to a meta-study – Sklivvz Oct 20 '15 at 18:58
  • This is a good place to start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientation – Peter Oct 20 '15 at 19:20
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    I believe an issue that has been raised with the studies done so far is that they may not be representative of the whole population. For example, they tend to get more white middle class respondents. – called2voyage Oct 20 '15 at 19:50
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I would argue that, yes, the range seems correct. The relative Wikipedia article mentions more than thirty different surveys, and they seem to be in that range.

That said:

Rates vary, a lot

Some cities have up to 1/8th of homosexual population, for example Atlanta has an estimated 12.8% of homosexuals:

atlanta

Self-reporting is unreliable

Self reporting as an homo- or bisexual excludes a number of people from the statistics. There are people that had non-heterosexual encounters or relationships only once, or only in the past and consider themselves heterosexual.

Among adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay); women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual; estimates of those who report any lifetime same-sex sexual behavior and any same-sex sexual attraction are substantially higher than estimates of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. There are also nearly 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. An estimated 19 million Americans (8.2%) report that they have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and nearly 25.6 million Americans (11%) acknowledge at least some same-sex sexual attraction.

-- How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?

There are many degrees of sexual orientation between fully heterosexual and fully homosexual, deciding where the "line" is drawn is subjective (e.g. see the dated Kinsey scale). Some people identify as asexual and it's not clear how they should be considered.

It's maybe the wrong question

Modern sexologists define gender identity along three different scales, sexual orientation being only one of them (two others being biological sex and gender identity), so the question "are you homosexual?" is quickly becoming meaningless by itself.

Each of us has a biological sex — whether we are female, male, or intersex. Our gender is our social and legal status as men or women. And sexual orientation is the term used to describe whether a person feels sexual desire for people of the other gender, same gender, or both genders.

Each of us has a gender and gender identity. Our gender identity is our deepest feelings about our gender. We express our gender identity in the way that we act masculine, feminine, neither, or both. Some of us are transgender — which means that our biological sex and our gender identity do not match up.

Each of us also has a sexual orientation. You may be bisexual, gay, lesbian or straight. Or you may be “questioning” — unsure about your sexual orientation.

  • I'd argue that some of the variance, especially that generated from the last point, is probably not significant enough to drastically change such a small number of reporting individuals. But your post is still appreciated and confirms some of my skepticism about such self-reporting studies. – Robbie Capps Oct 21 '15 at 15:32
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    Great answer, especially the spectrum note. I'm not sure the last section is meaningful quantitatively (e.g., the # of people who would classify as homosexual due to biological sex but not gender idenity, or vice versa, is likely small enough to not have any effect on rounded up %s). – user5341 Oct 21 '15 at 15:46
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    Also, I'm surprised at a lack of discussion of (1) selection criteria for surveys and (b) reliability of responses on a sensitive topic, in the first section. – user5341 Oct 21 '15 at 15:49
  • "There are people that had non-heterosexual encounters or relationships only once, or only in the past and consider themselves heterosexual." That's the thing, nothing prevent an heterosexual from having experience with the same sex. I don't believe it is unreliable, I'd say it is the opposite. While population tends to categorize, sexuality doesn't fit well in boxes. – Zonata Oct 23 '15 at 7:19
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According to Sexual Orientation and Health Among U.S. Adults, 2013:

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

  • This is an example of the type of study I had seen in the past, but my original question is still not answered. Thanks for posting it, though! – Robbie Capps Oct 20 '15 at 22:23
  • More detail: that last 1.1% divvies up as 0.2% "something else", 0.4% "I don't know the answer", and 0.6% refusing to answer. Depending on subjective differences in interpreting "identifying as gay or lesbian", everyone in that 1.1% could theoretically still count. So 1.6%, but with up to 1.1 percentage points of error margin in an upward direction. – Anko Oct 20 '15 at 22:27
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    Hm, the OP included your link as an example of the claim. Maybe finding different corroborating sources could help. – Sklivvz Oct 20 '15 at 22:28
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    @Sklivvz For the record, OP edited the link in after this answer was posted. – Anko Oct 20 '15 at 22:38

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