It’s no secret that Seattle has a large, thriving LGBTQ+ community — but new data shows Seattle even rivals San Francisco, the city often called the gay capital of the U.S.
The LGBTQ+ share of Seattle’s population is comparable in scale with that of the City by the Bay, according to market-research giant Nielsen.
The data shows an estimated 75,000 LGBTQ+ adults residing in ZIP codes that are wholly or partially inside Seattle city limits. That pencils out to 10.7% of the city’s adult population of about 702,000.
Impressively, that 10.7% estimate matches the figure for the city of San Francisco, according to the Nielsen data. However, because San Francisco is more populous than Seattle, its LGBTQ+ community is still larger in number, with about 83,000 adults.
While LGBTQ+ people live in practically every community, large or small, they are still more concentrated in cities. So, as you’d expect, the percentage is a lot smaller outside of Seattle.
Not that long ago, LGBTQ+ people typically concentrated in certain neighborhoods in major cities. Seattle’s Capitol Hill is one example. But like many of America’s “gayborhoods,” Capitol Hill is not as gay as it used to be.
That’s partly because of gentrification and rising rents, which have pushed out many original residents. But it also reflects the greater societal acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, who feel more comfortable living in whatever neighborhood they choose.
Even so, it’s clear from the Nielsen data that many LGBTQ+ people prefer to remain in the city, even if it’s not necessarily on Capitol Hill. The percentage of the population that is LGBTQ+ drops significantly once you get outside Seattle.
In the broader Seattle metro area, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, about 173,000 people identify as LGBTQ+. That’s about 5.5% of the total adult population in the metro area, roughly half the percentage figure for the city.
But it’s also true that more LGBTQ+ people here live outside Seattle than in it. The city’s 75,000 LGBTQ+ residents represents less than half (43%) of the metro area’s total LGBTQ+ community. I suspect that wasn’t always the case, but unfortunately, there’s no older data available to use for comparison.
The Seattle/Tacoma metro area has the third-highest percentage of LGBTQ+ people among the nation’s 15 largest metros. The San Francisco/Oakland area is No. 1, followed by Boston/Cambridge. The least gay major metro is Chicago, at 3.2%.
If the percentage of the population that’s LGBTQ+ seems surprisingly high, it could be because you are — like me — of “a certain age.” Younger folks might actually think the numbers seem much too low. That’s because younger adults — millennials and Gen Z — are much more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than older people. A recent Gallup poll found that slightly more than 8% of millennials in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+, which is more than twice as high as any other age group.
Indeed, the Nielsen data for the Seattle metro shows that LGBTQ+ adults have a median age of about 36, which is a full decade younger than the median age of the total adult population in this area. (The median is the midway point, meaning that half are older and half are younger.)
Many of the other demographic characteristics of the LGBTQ+ population here are likely related to the fact that they tend to be younger. For example, LGBTQ+ people are much less likely to be married than the average Seattle-area adult. They also have a median household income and net worth that is well below the area median.
Even so, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to have graduated from a four-year college, when compared with the total population.
A high percentage of LGBTQ+ people here are renters, which could reflect the fact that they are more likely to live in the city than in the suburbs.
Compared with the Seattle metro population as a whole, LGBTQ+ people are more racially diverse.
The Nielsen market research is based on survey data, and the current release is the first to include survey questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The surveys were conducted between January 2019 and May 2020. There were more than 210,000 respondents nationally, including about 3,000 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.