About 66,000 gay men and women are serving in the military, making up 2.2 percent of the total force, according to a new study by demographer Gary Gates.
The number of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members represents a slight increase from the author’s 2004 estimates. At the time, Gates analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. Census to estimate that 65,000 gay men and women served in uniform.
The new study largely replicates statistical methods used in 2004, but with new data and assumptions about the prevalence of homosexuality in the general population.
Instead of the decennial Census, Gates draws on data from the 2008 American Community Survey, a smaller sample of the population. Neither the Census nor the ACS explicitly asks about military members’ sexual orientation, but inferences can be made based on whether respondents indicate they are in the military and part of a same-sex household.
As in 2004, the latest figures show lesbian and bisexual women with far higher rates of military service than gay and bisexual men, 6.2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
But the new research decreases the proportion of gay individuals on active duty from 1.8 percent in 2004 to 0.9 percent today, and increases the proportion in the National Guard and reserve from 3.2 percent in 2004 to 3.4 percent today.
That is partly because Gates used data from the 2008 General Social Survey to assume that 3.3 percent of men and 5.2 percent of women in the general population are lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared to 4 percent of men and 3 percent of women previously.