Gay Britain: inside the ONS statistics

1.5% of the British population is gay, says the Office for National Statistics. See who lives where, how they are employed – and how likely they are to be smokers

Gay Britain, according to the ONS

How many people are gay in Britain? It’s a question which has vexed government and the tabloid press alike for some time. Estimates vary from around 5% to 7% (from a Treasury assessment before the civil partnership act in 2004) through to a much lower 2.2% from the latest British crime survey.

Well, today, the Office for National Statistics has published the most comprehensive breakdown on the question yet. It survey 238,206 people across Britain – dwarfing even the mighty British crime survey, which ‘only’ asks 22,995 people. In fact, the sample is slightly smaller, once you discount don’t knows, refusals and non-responses – but still a large 247,623.

It’s part of the ONS’ Integrated Household Survey, which comes out once a year to a normally muted response, largely because it’s buried on the terrible ONS website. The questioning involved showing people a card of options and asking them to indicate which category they fitted into. As a result, the ONS is highly confident about the results. Extrapolated nationally, they suggest a population of 726,000 gay, lesbian or bisexual people in the UK.

The survey presents a fascinating portrait of Britain’s gay population. Writing today, Alan Travis says:

Gay people are much more likely to be in managerial or professional occupations – 49% compared with 30% for straight workers – and better educated, with 38% holding a degree. Their age profile is also much younger than the rest of the population, with 66% under the age of 44 and 17% aged 16 to 24… Just over 45% of the gay community are cohabiting, although only 8% live in a household with at least one child present. A third of bisexual households include at least one child … London is home to the highest concentration of gay people at 2.2% of the population, while this proportion falls to 0.9% in Northern Ireland

There are some obvious caveats – there are lots more refusals to answer in the younger age brackets, which suggest the figures may be an underestimate with many teenagers refusing to respond.

Anyway, we’ve extracted the data from the ONS report – you can see it below and download the spreadsheet for many more details. What can you do with it?

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