In late June, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act by a 5-4 vote, effectively entitling gay folks across the nation — regardless of their state’s existing laws — to get hitched and claim certain spousal benefits. While the ruling is no doubt historic, the actual impact of the decision, however, may not be as resounding as one would initially assume.
According to the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, the CDC estimates that just 1.6 percent of the US populace identifies as gay or lesbian, while just 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual. Factoring in an additional 1.1 percent who identify as “other or something else,” that puts the national LGBT population at about 3.4 percent, or roughly 11 million people altogether. Since that’s the exact same figure estimated by UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy, it’s probably a reliable number to kick around.
So, how does the national LGBT population compare to some other minority groups in the US? As it turns out, there are quite a few groups out there who not only outnumber the nation’s non-heterosexual population, but positively dwarf it. Here are six subgroups in America who can all claim higher numbers than the nation’s LGBT contingent — and a few of them might just surprise you.
1. People with Gambling Problems
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately 9 million Americans have serious gambling problems (basically, meaning the “hobby” negatively impacts other aspects of their lives, such as work and family.) On top of that, the organization estimates another 3 million are “pathological gamblers,” which is categorized as an actual mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
At about 12 million people, they are a rather negligible percentage of the total US population, but they still outnumber the American LGBT population by at least one million. When it comes to their economic clout, however, they certainly have quite the impact. In 2013, American gamblers chalked up about $119 billion in losses; a sum higher than Warren Buffet’s net worth times two.
2. Unauthorized Immigrants
Unsurprisingly, data on the total number of people living in the US illegally is kind of hard to bolt down. No matter which set of numbers you rely upon, however, the sum still eclipses the national LGBT population by at least a million or so people.
Circa 2008, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated the national unauthorized immigrant population at about 12 million. Two years earlier, the Pew Hispanic Center reported pretty much the same estimates — between 11.5 and 12 million. A 2013 Department of Homeland Security report also puts up similar figures, estimating at least 11.4 million illegal immigrants were taking up residence in the US of A. Considering the population in question, it’s probably safe to assume those numbers are, if anything, an undercount.
3. People with Alcohol Problems
Last month, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism released a study suggesting that 14 percent of Americans display symptoms of “alcohol use disorder” — in short, a pattern of alcohol consumption that detrimentally affects other parts of one’s life, such as school and work performance.
All by themselves, those numbers are shocking; consisting of about 33 million Americans, the population is easily triple that of the nation’s entire LGBT populace. However, researchers go on to say that number is just the contemporary estimates; lifetime problem drinking factored in, the number of Americans in the category jumps up to nearly 70 million, or about one-fifth of the entire US adult population.
4. People Living Beneath The Federal Poverty Line
According to Census Bureau numbers from last year, a good 14 percent of the total US population lived below the federal poverty line. That sum, quadruple that of the nation’s total LGBT population, includes about 45 million people, among them a fifth of all US children.
So, what does it mean to be “impoverished?” Per the Department of Health and Human Services, that entails any individual who earns less than $11,000 a year and any four-person family taking in less than $24,000. However, if you factor in the number of people in low-income families (that is, households earning between 101 to 199 percent of the federal poverty line), the number jumps up to an astonishing 92.5 million — a sum that exceeds the US LGBT population at least nine-fold.
5. Gun Owners
According to the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of Americans in 2013 lived in a home with a gun. Their data suggests about 24 percent of Americans personally own a firearm, while another 13 percent knowingly (and presumably, willingly) cohabitate with them.
As a severely conservative estimate, that means about 75 million US residents own at least one gun, with at least 118 million people living in homes with a firearm — tallies that, respectively, are seven and 12 times higher than the national LGBT population. And for the record? Not only does the national estimates for legally purchased firearms far exceed the US LGBT population, it almost matches the nation’s total population. For each LGBT person in America, there are approximately 25-to-28 registered firearms — or, to put it another way, between 22 million and 62 million more guns than there are all white people in the country.
6. People With Mental Disorders
The National Institute of Mental Health makes it pretty clear: as of 2012, there are close to 44 million Americans with mental health disorder diagnoses. That’s a really, really big number, no doubt, but it’s even more astounding when you factor in a few caveats.
For one, that estimate only includes Americans over the age of 18 with mental health disorder diagnoses. Seeing as the NIMH estimates that one out of five children have experienced some form of seriously debilitating mental disorder in their lives, you can easily add another 14 million to the tab. Furthermore, in the NIMH adult estimates, both developmental disorders and substance abuse disorders aren’t even counted. Just tallying up the number of US adults with severe mental health disorders gives you about 9.6 million people — add the ever-growing number of children with serious disorders into that tally, and you have a strangely underrepresented minority population easily outnumbering the nation’s LGBT masses by at least 10 million.