Fashion marketers targeting gay male, lesbian and bisexual consumers will be speaking to a more diverse demographic if trends emerging in the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey keep gaining.
A backlash against ballot initiatives proposing bans on same-sex marriage in eight states; greater willingness among gays, lesbians and bisexuals to live openly, and broader media coverage are revealing a population that’s beginning to diverge from one commonly portrayed as upscale, urban and white.
The changing portrait is coming to light in new census data showing that the number of self-identified, same-sex couples sharing a household in 2005 surged 30 percent to reach 777,000, or 1.54 million people, up from 600,000 such couples, or 1.2 million people, in 2000. That rate of growth is five times larger than the 6 percent increase in the U.S. population, a figure of about 299,956,530, during the same period.
“We are seeing more social and economic diversity among the glb population, more families with kids,” observed Gary J. Gates, a senior research fellow at The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation law and public policy at the UCLA School of Law. “So, to the extent marketers peg marketing to [narrow] demographics — wealthy urbanites — I’m not sure they’ll hold true over time.” Gates noted that he expects to see still more segmentation within the glb demographic during the next several years.
Roughly one-third of the homes of same-sex couples nationwide included children, or 276,796 households.
Same-sex couples sharing a home account for about 9 percent of the country’s gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, who number about 8.8 million adults, according to an estimate by The Williams Institute. Those 8.8 million people represent an estimated 4 percent of Americans 18 and older.
The 2005 American Community Survey found the biggest percentage gains in same-sex partners sharing a household occurred throughout the Midwest, a region with a relatively low share of them in 2000. That small base, coupled with a growing willingness to self-identify and report one’s sexual orientation regardless of geography, Gates said, may have spurred disproportionate gains in homes with same-sex couples in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
Each of those states saw the number of such households increase at least 50 percent, compared with 2000, and accounted for eight of the 10 states with the fastest-growing number of them. The other two were Colorado and New Hampshire, where the number of same-sex couples sharing a household doubled to 5,578, spurred by a particularly robust increase in homes shared by women, to 3,625 — significantly more than all 2,703 reported there in 2000.