Report

How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States?

June 2016

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, this report provides estimates of the number and percentage of adults who identify as transgender in the U.S. and in each of the 50 states and D.C. Estimates are also broken down into three age ranges of adults.

AUTHORS
Highlights
Hawaii, California, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida have the highest percentages of adults who identify as transgender.
North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota have the lowest percentages of adults who identify as transgender.
Younger adults are more likely than older adults to identify as transgender.
Data Points
1.4
million adults identify as transgender
0.8%
of the adult population in Hawaii, California, Georgia, and New Mexico identify as transgender
0.3%
of the adult population in North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota identify as transgender
0.7%
of adults ages 18-24 identify as transgender
0.5%
of adults ages 65 and older identify as transgender
Report

Introduction and Summary

Population-based surveys, meaning those that are designed to allow researchers to generalize findings to the population, rarely ask questions to identify transgender people and, therefore, cannot be used to provide estimates of the size and characteristics of the transgender population. The federal government administers several large, national population-based surveys like the American Community Survey and the National Health Interview Survey that track the demographics, health, and well-being of U.S. residents. Unfortunately, these surveys do not currently measure gender identity.1 However, there are several state-level population-based surveys that identify transgender respondents and can be used to estimate the size and characteristics of the transgender population.

In 2011, Gary J. Gates utilized two state-level population-based surveys that collected data from 2003 in California and from 2007 and 2009 in Massachusetts to estimate that 0.3% of the U.S. adult population, roughly 700,000 adults, identified as transgender.2 Since then, more state-level data sources have emerged that allow us to utilize an estimation procedure that would not have been possible with the limited data available in 2011. Compared to the data used in Gates’ study, these new data sources provide more recent data (2014), larger sample sizes, and more detailed information about respondents. This allows for the development of more recent, detailed, and statistically robust estimates of the percentage and number of adults in the United States who identify as transgender.

This report utilizes data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to estimate the percentage and number of adults who identify as transgender nationally and in all 50 states.3 We find that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender. This figure is double the estimate that utilized data from roughly a decade ago and implies that an estimated 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender.4 State-level estimates of adults who identify as transgender range from 0.3% in North Dakota to 0.8% in Hawaii.5 In addition, due to current state-level policy debates that specifically target and affect transgender students, we provide estimates of the number of adults who identify as transgender by age. The youngest age group, 18 to 24 year olds, is more likely than older age groups to identify as transgender.

How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States?

For a discussion of gender identity data collection in federal population-based surveys and recommended measures, see The GenIUSS Group. (2014). Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender and Other Gender Minority Respondents on Population-Based Surveys. J.L. Herman (Ed.). Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, available at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla. edu/wp-content/uploads/geniuss-report-sep-2014.pdf.

Gates, G.J. (2011). How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, available at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf. A more recent report that was released in March 2016 provided estimates of the transgender population ages 13 and above in 15 states (“Estimates of Transgender Populations in States with Legislation Impacting Transgender People, available at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/estimates-of-transgender-populations-in-states-with-legislation-impacting-transgender-people/). These estimates were based on Gates’ 2011 study and other estimates of the transgender youth population. We believe the current study provides more robust estimates of the percentage of transgender-identified adults in those 15 states.

A detailed description of the methodology for this study is included in the Appendix and further details will be included in a separate document published alongside this report.

For national and state estimates provided in this report, adult general population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2011-2013 3-year PUMS, were multiplied by the estimated percentage of transgender-identified adults to yield the estimated number of transgender-identified adults.

The District of Columbia is not included in this range for states. DC had a notably high percentage of transgender-identified adults (2.8%) and is considered an outlier due to its unique geographic (urban) and demographic profile.