Introduction and Summary
Few data sources exist that can be used to describe the demographic characteristics of transgender people in the United States. Most U.S. demographic data come from national, population-based surveys, like the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey. National surveys, such as these, have rarely included questions to identify transgender respondents, leaving large gaps in our knowledge about the size and demographic composition of the transgender population. Yet, an increasing number of states and localities do collect data about transgender people. In this report, we utilize data from state-level, population-based surveys to estimate the proportion of the population that identifies as transgender by age group, starting at age 13. We provide a new estimate of the percentage of youth (13 to 17) that identifies as transgender (Figure 1). We also provide a new estimate of the overall age distribution of the transgender population, ages 13 and above. This report is part of a series of Williams Institute reports in which we provide estimates about the size and demographic characteristics of those who identify as transgender in the United States.
Some state-level surveys have provided researchers with data to compare the demographic characteristics of the transgender population to the non-transgender population. Studies based on state-level surveys of adults have differed somewhat in their findings in regard to the relationship between age and transgender identification. In a 2012 Massachusetts probability sample study researchers found that, overall, adults who identify as transgender were somewhat younger than non-transgender individuals. A more recent study utilizing data from 19 states found no significant difference in age between transgender and non-transgender adults.
Currently, the best available data about transgender people come from surveys of adults. Less is known about the proportion of youth that identify as transgender in the United States. Studies based on probability and non-probability survey samples at the local, state, and national levels have produced a range of findings in regard to the proportion of youth that identify as transgender. Wilson and colleagues found that among existing studies that measured transgender identity among youth, using local probability surveys or national convenience samples, the percentage of youth that identified as transgender ranged from 1.3% to 3.2%.
In this report, we utilize data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a national, state-administered survey, on which 19 states included a transgender identity question in 2014. An additional eight states collected data on transgender identity in 2015. In prior reports in this series, we estimated the size and the racial and ethnic composition of the adult population that identifies as transgender. In this report, we estimate that, in addition to 0.6% of U.S. adults (1.4 million), 0.7% of youth ages 13 to 17, about 150,000 youth, would identify as transgender. In addition, we find that, overall, the estimated population of individuals over the age of 13 years who identify as transgender appears similar to the general U.S. population in regard to its age distribution. A detailed description of the methodology for this report is included in the Appendix.
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