U.S. Transgender Population Estimate Has Doubled Since 2011

Estimates are highest for D.C. and Hawaii.


Misty Plowright for Congress/Facebook

An estimated 1.4 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender, according to a new analysis of conducted by The Williams Institute, a think tank associated with the UCLA School of Law. Nationally, around 0.58 percent of adults identify as trans—a figure twice the size of the Williams Institute's previous estimate, from 2011.

That study was based on data from two states and led by Gary J. Gates, then a distinguished scholar with the center; he's since retired from that position, though he worked on this present study. The researchers—led by Williams Institute Fellow Andrew Flores—chock the higher numbers in the new analysis up to "an increase in visibility and social acceptance of transgender people," as well as a much larger data set.

In individual states, transgender population estimates range from 0.3 percent (North Dakota) to 0.78 percent (Hawaii). For the District of Columbia, it's a whopping 2.8 percent.

Other states with estimated trans populations more than 0.10 points higher than the national average include California (0.76 percent), Georgia (0.75 percent), and New Mexico (0.75 percent). States with less than 0.4 percent included Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

A note of caution about these numbers, however: Researchers relied on data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems (BRFSS), a federal survey that collects info from all 50 states, D.C., and U.S. territories. Areas are given several optional question modules, one of which asks, "Do you consider yourself to be transgender?" Only 19 states opted to use the module that asked this question. Researchers derived their estimates for other locales by extrapolating based on demographic attributes from these states.  

The states that actually sureyed residents on whether they were transgender were Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. For these states, the average percentage of transgender residents was 0.52 percent.

"As expected, we find that younger adults are more likely than older adults to identify as transgender," the authors noted. For those 65 and older, the national estimate was 0.5 percent, while for those ages 18-24 it was 0.7 percent.