Monday, December 09, 2013

Counting men

I've noticed in the last 6 months that some conservative Catholics in the blogosphere have taken to claiming that the CDC in the US thinks that only 2% of men engage in "same sex behaviour".   (And conclude from that "hardly anyone is gay - why is gay marriage needed?)

In fact, the 2011 study they rely on says this in the abstract:
Estimates of the proportion of men who engaged in same-sex behavior differed by recall period: past year = 2.9% (95%CI, 2.6–3.2); past five years = 3.9% (3.5–4.4); ever = 6.9% (5.1–8.6).
 Which, of course, indicates that the true percent of gay or bisexual men would likely be around 4 - 5%.

With that background, it was interesting to read this article in the New York Times  in which a guy with a PhD in economics looks at the different threads of evidence and agrees with a 5% figure for "men who are predominantly attracted to men".

The most interesting aspect of the article is, however, the evidence he looks at for those parts of America where it seems men are more likely to be "in the closet".   (It's centred in the Southern, evangelical States.)    I thought this part was an innovative bit of research, and a bit darkly amusing:
Additional evidence that suggests that many gay men in intolerant states are deeply in the closet comes from a surprising source: the Google searches of married women. It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently. In the United States, of all Google searches that begin “Is my husband...,” the most common word to follow is “gay.” “Gay” is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, “cheating.” It is 8 times more common than “an alcoholic” and 10 times more common than “depressed.” 

Searches questioning a husband’s sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average.
 The other point that gays rights activists can rely on when talking about the relevance of numbers is this (I only thought to look this up on the weekend):
By 1933, German Jews were largely urban, middle class, prosperous in business, and well represented in the professions (especially medicine and law). They were culturally integrated but represented less than 1 percent of the total population.
PS:  I still don't support gay marriage, and would prefer it be dealt with by civil unions, perhaps even following the Tasmanian model which allow for other co-dependency relationships to be registered too.  But at least I don't argue dishonestly about it.


nottrampis said...

I doubt this very much.

The only surveys I have seen of this in Australia have the figure 2% or less.

Steve said...

I haven't read much about it, but I see that a quite large sample survey in 2003 in Australia came up with these results:

"Bisexuality, like any sexuality, can be defined through experience, desire and/or self-identification (Dobinson, 2003). The Sex in Australia survey found that 1.6% of Australian men identify as gay/homosexual and 0.8% of women as lesbian/homosexual. It also found that 0.9% of men and 1.4% of women identify as bisexual. In contrast, 8.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported attraction and/or sexual experience with partners of both sexes (Smith et al., 2003)."

We seem pretty clearly up to 2.5% identifying as gay or bisexual, then, and I see elsewhere that the response rate for the survey was about 75%; so allowing for a bit of bias in those who decline to answer being due to being "in the closet", I think we could guess the total gay/bisexual proportion as perhaps being 3%, or over?

The NYT guy may be overestimating the number who are "predominantly attracted to men", but I still think the CDC study indicates it wouldn't be any less than 3% who are at least gay or bisexual; probably more like 4 to 5% as I said. But it's all a guestimate.

What is true, I think, is that the number of gay households is perhaps less than people imagine.

nottrampis said...

Steve, be careful about what you are measuring.

I am only talking about men/women who are actively homosexual not who think they are 'attracted to the opposite sex.