Saturday, May 23, 2009

What is the distribution of homosexuals across city size? Using GSS data, here is what I found:

Percent of the total sex-specific population

Gay men
Rural/small town 2.1
Town 1.9
Small city 2.4
Medium-size city 3.0
Large city 4.3
Very large city 6.0

Rural/small town 1.4
Town 2.5
Small city 2.9
Medium-size city 2.5
Large city 3.1
Very large city 2.0

The larger the place of residence, the higher the percent of men who are gay. But for lesbians, there doesn't seem to be a pattern (except for a lower share in small towns). Of course, the numbers bounce around since we are making estimates for a small group of people.

So, assuming we are observing a real pattern here, why are there so many more gay men in large cities, but not lesbians? Are gay men more drawn to the cultural advantages of the big city? More job opportunities for the kinds of work they excel in? Do they experience more unfriendly treatment in small towns than lesbians, or are they less willing to admit their orientation in an interview if they live somewhere that is less populated? Is it harder to find partners in smaller towns, but lesbians don't care as much? Something else?


  1. Several reasons, but occupational profiles probably make a big difference: homosexual males are up to 3% of the population, but constitute 20-50% of all artists, writers, performers, and dancers.

    73% of gay men work in arts and entertainment.

  2. Gay men are known for "gentrifying" high-crime urban areas and turning them into low-crime areas that families can move into. Perhaps the risk of attack is lower for them than women (while I've noted that women are unlikely to be attacked compared to men, that's in part because men get themselves into trouble). I found earlier that lesbians have low rates of being assaulted, while bisexual women have higher ones.

  3. I wouldn't be surprised if the typical lesbian's ideal of a good place to live is more or less the same as the typical monogamous male's (with the "duh" exception that the former is more likely to demand tolerant attitudes toward sexual minorities). Lesbians are looking for an affordable, safe, place to make a nice home for their artist girlfriend and their enormous dogs on their vet tech / flower nursery / small business income.

    But to be honest, I don't know if my little stereotypes of "lesbian jobs" are very accurate. They can't all work at gas stations or play acoustic guitars for a living, but beyond that I'm confabulating. My lesbian stereotype is: impeccably clean faded denim clothing and enormous dogs. Not much else.

  4. Anonymous5:20 PM

    It's always been my understanding that lesbians tend to concentrate in well-paid professional and business jobs. Lawyers, physicians, college professors, engineers, and so on. I'm not sure whether the city-size figures shown in this post support or weaken this stereotype.


  5. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Of course it's harder for them to find partners in a small town. It's also harder for them to be out in a smaller town. All people seek their tribe.

    Ron, you read gnxp and the occasional post from Greg Cochran, right? In answering questions about his pathogen hypothesis of male homosexuality, he has said that gay men raised in or near a city outnumber gay men raised in more rural areas by a margin three to one, I believe.

    At one point (I just don't recall if it was in the same conversation) he pointed to the difference in deaths from AIDS in rural vs. urban areas.

    A few posters argued that the urban numbers were simply the result of the migration we are talking about, but Cochran insisted he wasn't just talking about migration. I don't know who his source was. Bailey maybe.

    Anyway, I don't suppose you've found something that would tell you the numbers on place of birth or place of rearing for gay men, huh? It would be interesting.

  6. Mr. Thing7:29 PM

    "Gay men:
    Very large city 6.0"


    But seriously, I think the that the anonymity of the big city makes it easier for promiscuous gay males to find partners. The reason why we see the sorting for gays and not lesbians is that:

    1. Gays are more promiscuous that lesbians, and

    2. There is less of a stigma against lesbianism than gayishness, thus less need for sorting.

  7. Anonymous7:32 PM

    @Jason Malloy

    "73% of gay men work in arts and entertainment."

    I had no idea the figure was that high. I know many are in teaching--music, theater arts, art.

    Can I ask you your source for that stat? It's an astounding figure.

  8. Anonymous8:40 PM

    Sorry, Jason. I just now noticed your link for your source.

  9. he pointed to the difference in deaths from AIDS in rural vs. urban areas.That may require some critical mass of simultaneous partners to explode. A representative sample of a big city placed in a small town would not be expected to have the same rates.

    The GSS asks men in what kind of town they lived it at a certain young age.


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