Queer statistics

24 September 2010

So the Office for National Statistics has released data suggesting that almost three-quarters of a million UK adults say they are gay, lesbian or bisexual – equivalent to 1.5% of the population: 480,000 (1%) consider themselves gay or lesbian, and 245,000 (0.5%) bisexual. 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.

Of course it’s easy to look at that data and conclude it is much lower than the most commonly used estimate of 5% to 7%, which was cited by ministers introducing civil partnership legislation and implied a non-heterosexual population of 3.5 million.

It was data that surprised me. And it’s data that is – I believe – is being misrepresented as wholly accurate. Here’s some reasons why:

  • All the survey’s statistics are considered experimental, or in a testing phase, as they have not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.
  • Only people aged 16 and over were questioned about their self-perceived sexual identity – a large proportion missing when you consider that their age profile is also much younger than the rest of the population.
  • People were asked to respond with one of four options: heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other. It’s not always appropriate to apply a label with boundaries to yourself. If Stephen Fry would label himself as just 90% gay how could he tick a survey box explaining he fits into one of those four exclusionary categories?
  • Many homosexual people would not be happy to admit to a stranger that they are gay, or bisexual. Sexuality remains deeply taboo to many people.
  • Many gay or bisexual people may be in a heterosexual relationship (maybe married) and not want to admit their sexuality.
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Lies, Damn Lies and Luxembourg

25 August 2010

I was reading about Luxembourg this morning.

That source of all knowledge Wikipedia had some amazing information on the country (Michael Scott, the David Brent of the American Office once said that because anybody can contribute to Wikipedia you know you’re getting the best possible information). It’s an unusual country, it is the world’s only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy, and it’s landlocked position provides a strange statistical quirk.

"Luxembourg consumes the most alcohol in Europe per capita. However, the large proportion of alcohol purchase by customers from neighboring countries contributes to the statistically high level of alcohol consumption per capita; this level of consumption is thus not representative of the actual alcohol consumption of the Luxembourg population."

Fascinating, eh?


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