Report

LGBT Adult Immigrants in the United States

March 2013
AUTHORS
  • Gary J. Gates
    Research Director, Former
Report

Executive Summary

As ongoing debates about immigration reform continue in the United States, little is known about how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals might be affected by the outcome of these debates. While some information is available regarding same-sex couples who include foreign-born partners or spouses (Gates and Konnoth, 2012), it is likely that many LGBT immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are not part of a same-sex couple. This research brief uses data about the characteristics of the adult foreign-born immigrant population in the US provided by the Pew Research Hispanic Center1 along with analyses of Gallup Daily Tracking Survey data and the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2011) to estimate the number of LGBT-identified adult (age 18+) undocumented and documented immigrants and describe some of their characteristics. Analyses also provide updated estimates for the number of foreign-born residents who are part of a same-sex couple and describes their demographic characteristics.

Key findings regarding adult undocumented immigrants include: 

  • There are an estimated 267,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult undocumented immigrant population, representing approximately 2.7% of undocumented adults in the U.S.
  • Relative to all undocumented immigrants, LGBT undocumented immigrants are more likely to be male and are younger.
  • 71% of undocumented LGBT adults are Hispanic.
  • 15% of undocumented LGBT adults are Asian or Pacific Islander.

Key findings regarding adult documented immigrants include:

  • There are an estimated 637,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult documented immigrant population, representing approximately 2.4% of documented adults in the US.
  • Like their undocumented counterparts, LGBT documented immigrants are more likely to be male and are younger.
  • 30% of documented LGBT adults are Hispanic.
  • 35% of documented LGBT adults are Asian or Pacific Islander.

Key findings regarding same-sex couples that include a foreign-born spouse or partner:

  • There are an estimated 113,300 foreign-born individuals (naturalized citizens and non-citizens) who are part of a same-sex couple. An estimated 54,600 of these individuals are not US citizens.
  • An estimated 24,700 same-sex couples are binational (one US citizen and one non-citizen) along with 11,700 same-sex couples comprised of two non-citizens.
  • Nearly 7,000 same-sex couples that include two non-citizens (58%) are raising an estimated 12,400 children under age 18.
  • An estimated 6,200 bi-national same-sex couples (25%) are raising more than 11,000 children.
  • Compared to foreign-born individuals in different-sex couples, foreign-born individuals in same-sex couples are more likely to be male and younger.
  • Non-citizens in both same-sex and different-sex couples are economically disadvantaged. Comparing non-citizens to naturalized citizens in same-sex couples, the median annual personal income of non-citizen men in same-sex couples who are in the labor force is $24,000 versus$40,000 for their naturalized citizen counterparts. For women in same-sex couples, the comparable figures are $22,400 versus $45,000.
  • Despite higher education levels, personal income for men in same-sex couples is lower compared to men in different-sex couples, regardless of citizenship status or labor force participation.

Download the full report

LGBT Adult Immigrants in the United States

Special thanks to Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn for their assistance in providing the data.