LGBT 101: What marketers need to know about gay consumers

June 17, 2013 by Experian Marketing Services

2013 has been a milestone year for those lobbying on behalf of expanded rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Americans. With 12 states and the District of Columbia now formally recognizing same sex marriages and two highly anticipated rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court expected shortly, the momentum is currently on the side of those seeking greater recognition and support of LGBT-related issues.

The speed with which public attitudes have shifted towards greater acceptance of LGBT individuals and their causes has left many marketers scrambling to devise plans that are not only inclusive of LGBT consumers, but in many instances, designed to overtly and publically court this influential and growing consumer segment.

The 2013 LGBT consumer report out from Experian Marketing Services delivers insights marketers need to better understand the market that is on everyone’s radar. In this first of a series of blog posts, we’ll highlight key data from the report. Readers can download the full report at any time here.

Living out Loud

In 2006, when Experian Marketing Services first began measuring sexual orientation among respondents to our Simmons® National Consumer Study, we found that 3.4% of all non-Hispanic adults self-identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT), a figure consistent with what leading LGBT researchers predicted at the time. However today, 4.3% of the non-Hispanic adult population self-identifies as LGBT, a figure that has risen slowly but steadily year-after-year.

Younger adults have consistently been more likely to identify as LGBT, and in fact today, 5.8 percent of 18 to 34 year olds say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. As a result, the adult LGBT population predictably skews towards the younger age cohorts. Specifically, 36% of LGBT adults today are aged 18 to 34 versus 26% of the heterosexual population in that age range. Likewise, while 20% of heterosexual adults are age 65 and older, just 16% of LGBT adults are in this age range, though our data shows that the share of adults age 65 and older identifying as LGBT has also risen.

sexual orientation by age

age distribution gay vs heterosexual

Home and Family

As a growing number of U.S. states pass laws recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions, we see an increasing percentage of gay and lesbian Americans reporting that they are married. In 2007, for example, when only Massachusetts allowed same-sex marriage, 8% of gay men and 14% of lesbian women said they were married. Today, 17% of gay men and 16% of lesbian women are married. Marriage rates among lesbian and gay adults still lag well behind those of heterosexuals, but the gap is closing from both sides. In fact, while marriage rates are rising among lesbians and gays, they’re falling among heterosexuals. Today, 58% of heterosexual men and 53% of heterosexual women are married, compared to 60% of heterosexual men and 55% of heterosexual women who were married in 2007.

marriage rates by sexual orientation

The Pink Dollar

Income levels are important to consider when targeting consumers, but more important is determining the amount of money left over for non-essentials after the other bills are paid. Despite earning nearly identical salaries, gay men have lower annual household discretionary expenditures than heterosexual men. Likewise, lesbian households have fewer dollars than those of heterosexual women to spend on non-essentials. This is mostly likely due to the fact that both lesbian and gay adults tend to reside in larger cities where the cost of living can be considerably higher than average.

Interestingly, when household size is brought into the equation, we see that gay males actually have higher discretionary spending per capita than heterosexual men. In fact, gay men live in households that devote $6,794 per capita annually to non-essentials, which is $753 more than what heterosexual men spend.

discretionary spending

Forthcoming posts from this series will include insights into the automotive and food vertical markets; the mobile habits of LGBT consumers; and an examination of online visitors to LGBT content sites. Don’t want to wait? Download the full report now.

Also, learn more about the Simmons LGBT Consumer Study, the only syndicated, national probability sample survey that measures the lifestyles, attitudes, media habits and brand preferences of the LGBT population giving marketers actionable insights into this powerful consumer segment that can be directly compared with those of heterosexuals.