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How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States?
- Data Points
Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, and advanced statistical modeling, this study estimates the population of adults and youth who identify as transgender nationally and in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. It also provides estimates regarding gender, age, and race/ethnicity.
Recent data from the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) provide an opportunity to update prior population estimates of the number of adults and youth who identify as transgender in the U.S. In 2016 and 2017, the Williams Institute used data from the 2014-15 BRFSS to estimate the number of adults (ages 18 and older) and youth (ages 13 to 17) who identify as transgender. Since then, a total of 43 states have used the BRFSS optional gender identity module for at least one year, providing more years of data from more states since these initial estimates. Additionally, in 2017, the YRBS, a national survey of high school students, began asking respondents if they are transgender. Since 2017, fifteen states have included this question in their YRBS statewide questionnaire. In this study, we use data from the 2017 and 2019 YRBS and the 2017- 2020 BRFSS to find that:
- Over 1.6 million adults (ages 18 and older) and youth (ages 13 to 17) identify as transgender in the United States, or 0.6% of those ages 13 and older.
- Among U.S. adults, 0.5% (about 1.3 million adults) identify as transgender. Among youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S., 1.4% (about 300,000 youth) identify as transgender.
- Of the 1.3 million adults who identify as transgender, 38.5% (515,200) are transgender women, 35.9% (480,000) are transgender men, and 25.6% (341,800) reported they are gender nonconforming.
- Research shows transgender individuals are younger on average than the U.S. population. We find that youth ages 13 to 17 are significantly more likely to identify as transgender (1.4%) than adults ages 65 or older (0.3%).
- The racial/ethnic distribution of youth and adults who identify as transgender appears generally similar to the U.S. population, though our estimates mirror prior research that found transgender youth and adults are more likely to report being Latinx and less likely to report being White compared to the U.S. population.
- Our estimates of the percent of residents in U.S. regions who identify as transgender range from 1.8% in the Northeast to 1.2% in the Midwest for youth ages 13 to 17, and range from 0.6% in the Northeast to 0.4% in the Midwest for adults.
- At the state level, our estimates range from 3.0% of youth ages 13 to 17 identifying as transgender in New York to 0.6% in Wyoming. Our estimates for the percentage of adults who identify as transgender range from 0.9% in North Carolina to 0.2% in Missouri.
Overall, based on our estimates from 2016-2017 and the current report, we find that the percentage and number of adults who identify as transgender has remained steady over time. The availability of the YRBS data has given us a more direct look into youth gender identity and provides better data than was previously available to us for estimating the size and characteristics of the youth population. Youth ages 13 to 17 comprise a larger share of the transgender-identified population than we previously estimated, currently comprising about 18% of the transgender-identified population in the U.S., up from 10% previously.