Although the 1 million same-sex couple households in the United States make up less than 2% of total coupled households, 21% of same-sex couples with children have adopted children versus less than 3% of opposite-sex couples with children. Same-sex couples are seven times more likely than opposite-sex couples to have adopted children. The number of children living with LGBT parents has risen tremendously, and these numbers will only increase as same-sex adoption and parenting becomes more widely accepted.
U.S. LGBT Adoption Statistics | LGBT Adoption Facts
- An estimated 2 million LGBT people are interested in adopting.
- Over 43% of same-sex couples have adopted or step-children, versus about 10% of opposite-sex households.
- Same-sex couples are four times more likely than opposite-sex couples to have adopted children or step-children.
- Same-sex couples living with children are eight times more likely to have foster children and almost six times more likely to be living with other relative or non-relative children.
- In 2019, 22.5% of female same-sex couple households had children under 18 present, compared with 6.6% of male same-sex couple households.
- LGBT adoptive parents are more likely to adopt transracially.
- Adopted children with same-sex parents are more likely to be foreign born.
- The average age of same-sex adoptive parents is 42.8.
About Gay & Lesbian Households with Adoptive Children
Total Number of Same-Sex Coupled Households: 181,050
- Married: 122,200 (67%)
- Unmarried: 58,850 (33%)
Children in Same-Sex Households
- Biological Children Only: 88,949 (49.1%)
- Step-children Only: 16,683.95 (9.2%)
- Adopted Children Only: 24,490 (13.5%)
- Foster Children Only: 2,808 (1.6%)
- Combination/Mixed: 17,055 (9.4%)
- Other Only: 17,115 (9.5%)
Adopted Children by Family Type
Gay and lesbian parents are raising 4% of all adopted children under the age of 18 in the United States.
- Heterosexual Married Couple: 78%
- Single Heterosexual Individual: 15%
- Single Lesbian/Gay Individual: 3%
- Heterosexual Unmarried Couple: 3%
- Gay/Lesbian Couple: 1%
Average Age of Same-Sex Adoptive Parents
Same-sex couples raising adopted children are generally older than other adoptive parents.
- Female Same-Sex Couple: 43.2
- Male Same-Sex Couple: 41.3
Average Household Income of Same-Sex Households
Same-sex couples generally have more economic resources than other adoptive parents.
- Female Same-Sex Couple: $102,508
- Male Same-Sex Couple: $102,331
States with Highest Number of Children in LGBT Households
An estimated 65,500 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent. Below are the 10 states with the highest numbers of adopted children, under the age of 18, who are living in lesbian and gay households.
- California: 16,458
- New York: 7,042
- Massachusetts: 5,828
- Texas: 3,588
- Washington: 3,004
- Georgia: 2,337
- New Jersey: 2,344
- Maryland: 2,142
- Pennsylvania: 1,950
- Illinois: 1,887
Race/Ethnicity of Adopted Children in Same-Sex Households
- White: 53%
- Black: 14%
- Hispanic/Latino(a): 18%
- Asian/Pacific Islander: 11%
- Other: 4%
LGBT Adoption State Laws
States used to be able to prevent LGBT couples from adopting because of marital requirements. Now, LGBT couples cannot be denied the opportunity to adopt a child jointly from a public agency. As an extension of this ruling, a law banning gay adoption in Mississippi was overturned in 2016, making joint LGBT adoption legal in all 50 states. In 2017, the US Supreme Court reversed a state court’s ruling that gay married couples must get a court order to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates.
Although these Supreme Court rulings should make adoption fair regardless of sexual orientation or preference, outdated state laws as well as the prevalence of private faith-based adoption agencies in some states make it more difficult to adopt for those who identify as LGBT. Check your state’s adoption laws through our interactive map.
Gates, G., Badgett, L., Macomber, J. and Chambers, K. “Adoption and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian Parents in the United States.” Gates, G., Badgett, L., Macomber, J. and Chambers, K. “Adoption and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian Parents in the United States.”
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Walker, Laquitta, and Danielle Taylor. “Same-Sex Couple Households: 2019.” U.S. Census Bureau, February 2021.
Gates, G. “LGBT Parenting in the United States.” Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, 2013.
Erskine, Ellena. “Obergefell v. Hodges.” SCOTUSblog, 2015.
DeMillo, Andrew. “Supreme Court sides with same-sex couples in Arkansas suit.” AP News, 26 June 2017.
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Foster and Adoption Laws."
Gates, Gary J.. “Marriage and Family: LGBT Individuals and Same-Sex Couples.” In The Future of Children, 25(2):67–87. 2015.
Averett, P., Nalavany, B., & Ryan, S. “An evaluation of gay/lesbian and heterosexual adoption.” In Adoption Quarterly, 12(3–4), 129–151. 2009. doi:10.1080/10926750903313278.
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“Total Number of Same-sex Households: 2008 to Present.” U.S. Census Bureau, 2020.
The information on this page is for educational use only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Although we make every effort to update this information frequently, information of this kind does change quickly; therefore, some information may be out-of-date and/or contain inaccuracies, omissions, or typographical errors.
Last updated: September 2022