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Census Releases Gay Couple Households Data

Jenny Chen |
September 27, 2011 | 5:56 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor


The U.S. Census Bureau released data about same-sex marriage couples and household partners for the first time on Tuesday. 

Figures show there are more than 646,000 same-sex couple households in the nation, including 131,729 married couples.

For the first time, the census forms allowed people to check “husband” or “wife” when describing their relationship and households. 

 “We understand how important it is for all groups to have accurate statistics that reflect who we are as a nation,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. 

Same-sex couples currently make up fewer than 1 percent of all households in the United States, but the number of same-sex couples has increased about 80 percent over the last 10 years, according to estimates from the 2010 Census.

In 2000, when the last census was conducted, same-sex marriage was not legal in America. By 2010, five states and the District of Columbia had legalized same-sex marriage. 

Statistics were originally derived from questionnaires distributed on the census form, including questions about an individual’s sex and relationship to householder. 

The number of same-sex couples was readjusted from an earlier estimate released last month that said there were 901,997 same-sex couples in America. 

Previous data was artificially inflated by opposite-sex couples that may have mistakenly misidentified the gender of themselves or their family members when checking boxes on the census form. 

There is a chance that many same-sex couples declined to make note of their marital status. It is also possible that not all people who checked “husband” or “wife” are legally married. 

Researchers suggest these estimates may be up to 15 percent lower than the actual number of gay couples as some young couples are not heads of a household. 

About 70 percent of those identified as married are actually legally married and 15 percent in civil unions or domestic partnerships, estimates demographer Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute.

Same-sex couples appear to avoid living in densely populated areas, choosing instead to reside in West Virginia, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Kentucky, according to census data. 

Washington, D.C. had the highest number of households with same-sex couples at almost 2 percent. 

About 28,000 people identified themselves as part of a same-sex couple in California, with 29 percent saying they are married. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.

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