Scrutinizing the numbers game

When President Obama signed the Ryan White CARE Act in October, he noted that gay men comprise “two to three percent of the population,” yet account for “half of all cases” in the United States. A month later, when a House committee was debating a bill to provide gay federal employees with health coverage for their domestic partners, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-San Diego) complained about the potential cost of the measure, saying the LGBT community “often” claims it makes up 10 percent of the population.

Gary Gates, a nationally recognized expert in statistics regarding the LGBT community, said the 10 percent figure has “always lacked scientific validity” and that the President’s estimate is probably more accurate.

But more important, of course, is what population one is talking about. An estimate of the percentage of “gay people” in the entire population nationwide is not likely to be the same as an estimate of the percentage of federal workers who have same-sex domestic partners.

A Williams Institute study of “The Fiscal Impact of Extending Federal Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners,” released in September 2008, estimated that 30,185 federal employees have same-sex partners who are not also federal employees and, thus, who might be eligible for coverage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 1.8 million federal employees in the United States. Percentage gay employees who might use partner benefits: 1.7 percent.

Leave a Reply