Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

June 25, 2013

Results from the new Loving More survey

Back in 2000, Loving More magazine collected detailed personal survey information from 1,011 of its readers and other poly people. Although the sample was self-selected and the project had other limitations, results from it have been cited ever since: for instance the very high rate of bisexuality among polys (more than 10 times the rate claimed by Americans generally), and polys' very high levels of education (four times as many had advanced graduate degrees as the national average). Adam Weber summarized the 2000 results in the Summer 2002 Loving More (issue #30), Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli summarized the parenting aspects in the Fall 2002 issue (#31), and you can look through the statistics themselves courtesy of the Kinsey Institute.

But in retrospect the questionnaire was not well designed (despite having 52 questions), some of the material on the paper response sheets went unused, and the response sheets themselves are now lost.

It was high time to do it again, better.

Self-reported happiness among polys in the Loving More 2012 survey (LM) and in the general U.S. population (GSS).
So in 2012 Loving More — no longer a print magazine, now a nonprofit educational organization — sponsored a new survey of poly people, recruited on the internet. This time it garnered 4,062 participants. Although the sample was again self-selected, researchers Jim Fleckenstein, Curtis R. Bergstrand, and Derrell W. Cox II cast their nets as far as possible beyond the Loving More mailing list to round up participants from among today's wider world of self-identified polys. The researchers also designed most of the survey questions to match questions in the General Social Survey of the United States, to enable direct comparisons with the overall population. A few questions duplicated some that Loving More asked in 2000, to look for changing trends.

Jim gave a preliminary PowerPoint report on the project's results at Loving More's Poly Living conference in Philadelphia last February (2013). "This is the largest survey of the polyamory community ever conducted," he told a room of 45 people, with just over 4,000 self-identified poly respondents. The full results will not appear until they're published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. But among the preliminary findings:

● Polys continue to show much higher levels of education than average, though not as greatly so as in the 2000 results; this probably reflects the widening of the poly movement in the intervening 12 years.

● Polys are "slightly but significantly happier" than average Americans, especially women.

● Polys stay healthier than average as they grow older, "a very robust finding" statistically; "being poly is very good for you as you age." Jim said this trend is even more pronounced than the well-known tendency of married people to be healthier than aging singles (and the famous "marriage effect" tends to fall apart when you control for the fact that unhealthy people attract fewer potential marriage partners to begin with). You might wonder whether the health-and-happiness results merely reflect polys' high education levels, which correlate with health and happiness among people in general. But, says Darrell Cox, "We find very different drivers of health and happiness for the LM [Loving More] folks versus the general population."

● Not surprisingly polys have more sex, and with more people, than their peers, especially over age 50. Jim speculated that having more sex contributes to polys' better well-being. Darrell now says that a linear regression analysis has found signs that a cause-and-effect link runs in both directions here.

● Polys have been found to earn less than their equally well educated peers. Coincidentally or not, far more people in the LM survey said they have been discriminated against than Americans in general say they have been. However, I wonder if the wealth gap instead just reflects the difference between geeky independent thinkers and mainstream careerists. And Darrell notes, "Many have suggested that well-educated poly folks tend to be in the helping professions, where incomes are significantly less than in other professions or vocations."


Now, four months later, the survey authors have finally put out a public summary of some of what they've found, with lots of graphs. Read it here on the Loving More site (June 21, 2013). Academic publication of the whole thing still awaits.

One bit:

[Loving More 2012] respondents were significantly more likely (28.5%) to report having experienced some form of discrimination compared to the general US population (5.5%) and more than twice as likely than African Americans within the US population (12.8%). These results were similarly significant when analyzed by gender and sexual behavioral orientation. Ambiguity about [whether people have] experienced discrimination is far more common among the LM population (18.4%) as compared to the general US population (0.13%)....

When the LM respondents were asked specifically about discrimination for being polyamorous, 25.8% answered “yes,” 53.4% answered “no,” and 20.8% answered “not sure.” Polyamorous women (28.9%) were significantly more likely to state that they had experienced discrimination for being polyamorous than were men (20.6%).

This study is only the first in a series the authors plan. In the discussion period after Jim's talk at Poly Living, several people challenged the wording of various questions and asked for more next time about poly-specific matters. Jim said the authors were constrained by their design of mostly using questions in the GSS. He said the 2012 survey was "only the first round," and that the three authors are eager to delve into new issues —— such as degree of out-ness and relations with families of origin, the degrees of sexual satisfaction among multiple partners, getting to the root of "the [apparent] prophylactic effects of poly on the unmarried and divorced," religious beliefs, and perceptions of equality and fairness within poly relationships.

Jim asked for suggestions from the community. You can write to him at Jim(AT)affirmativeintimacy.com or to Derrell at derrell.cox(AT)ou.edu .




Anonymous robert919 said...

I also think the wealth gap has more to do with putting your neck out there. A high-paid executive is not going to be very open about his or her alternative lifestyle, compared to a rank-and-file office worker. Staying in the closet as poly---or opting for an underground swinging life instead---would be more likely.

This was typical in the 80s & 90s among the LGBT community too. It will probably take another decade before upscale, upper class poly's to start coming out more.

June 25, 2013 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in a highly paid, professional, conservative field. You betcha I'm closeted at work.

I'm out in all other aspects of my life. I don't hide my relationships with my partners in public, and take the chance of being seen in mild PDA by co-workers and clients, but there is a limit to how much I'll allow my work closet to affect my life and my partners lives.

June 25, 2013 8:32 PM  

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