September 29th, 2011
Editor’s note: These estimates include only couples where one partner is identified as being the spouse of the person who owns or rents the house.
SAN DIEGO – California leads the nation with the most same-sex couples, according to the 2010 Census.
The Golden State had 98,153 same-sex couples, followed by New York with 48,932, Florida with 48,496 and Texas with 46,401. North Dakota had the fewest same-sex couples with 559, just ahead of Wyoming with 657 and South Dakota with 714.
Among the nation’s largest cities with a population over 250,000, San Diego ranked No. 5 with 5,910 same-sex couples. Los Angeles was No. 1 with 13,292, followed by Chicago with 10,849, San Francisco with 10,461 and Seattle with 6,537.
The U.S. Census Bureau this week released revised estimates on same-sex married couple and unmarried partner households: There were 131,729 same-sex married couple households and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households in the United States.
The 2010 Census marked the first time the Census Bureau tracked information about same-sex spouses.
Gay groups react
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, noted that the organization worked closely with the Census Bureau to document data on same-sex households.
“The data … represent another step in erasing the invisibility of our lives. No longer are our marriages rendered invisible in the snapshot of our country provided through the census. And no longer can anyone ignore the presence of our relationships all across the country,” Carey said.
“While this marks a huge step forward, it is not the end of the journey. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals still are not counted in the census or dozens of other surveys that are supposed to reflect the diversity of people in America. When LGBT people are not counted, we don’t ‘count’ when it comes to money for services, resources and programs.
“Census and other data are the basis for how the government spends billions of dollars each year. Without an accurate count, LGBT people are forced to go without funding for real, everyday services and remain virtually nonexistent in the eyes of our government. This is unacceptable. We continue to work with policymakers to ensure LGBT people are included in data collection on a broad spectrum of critical issues, including those involving our health, our families, our economic well-being, our safety and much more,” Carey said.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, applauded the data.
“The Census Bureau’s most recent estimates of same-sex couples reiterate the need to end marriage discrimination once and for all. The number of gay and lesbian couples in committed, loving relationships, raising families together, continues to grow, leaving more and more families without the critical safety-net of marriage,” Wolfson said.
“These findings also confirm that those who most need the support marriage offers – particularly in these tough economic times – live in the places with the fewest protections. The South is home to more gay parents than any other region in the nation. And yet, these families are not only discriminated against by their home states, which exclude them from marriage and bar even lesser protections such as civil union and domestic partnership, but are also targeted for an additional layer of discrimination from the federal government under the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” he said.
“When DOMA was stampeded into law back in 1996, no gay couples were married anywhere in the world; Congress was voting on a hypothetical. Now we have Census confirmed couples across the country who are harmed by this unconscionable law. In the United States, we don’t have second-class citizens, and we shouldn’t have second-class marriages. It’s time to follow the Golden Rule and the Constitution and end marriage discrimination once and for all.”
Census Bureau explains why it revised its numbers
The results of the 2010 Census revised estimates are closer to the results of the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) for same-sex married and unmarried partners. The 2010 ACS estimated same-sex married couples at 152,335 and same-sex unmarried partners at 440,989.
The new, preferred figures revise earlier estimates of same-sex unmarried partners released this summer from the 2010 Census Summary File 1 because Census Bureau staff discovered an inconsistency in the responses in the 2010 Census summary file statistics that artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples.
In addition, a breakdown of couples who reported as same-sex spouses is now available. The summary file counts originally showed that there were 349,377 married couple households and 552,620 same-sex unmarried partner households.
Statistics on same-sex couple households are derived from two questions on the census and ACS questionnaire: relationship to householder and the sex of each person. When data were captured for these two questions on the 2010 Census door-to-door form, the wrong box may have been checked for the sex of a small percentage of opposite-sex spouses and unmarried partners. Because the population of opposite-sex married couples is large and the population of same-sex married couples in particular is small, an error of this type artificially inflates the number of same-sex married partners.
New methodology implemented
After discovering the inconsistency, Census Bureau staff developed another set of estimates to provide a more accurate way to measure same-sex couple households. The revised figures were developed by using an index of names to re-estimate the number of same-sex married and unmarried partners by the sex commonly associated with the person’s first name.
“We understand how important it is for all groups to have accurate statistics that reflect who we are as a nation,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “As scientists, we noticed the inconsistency and developed the revised estimates to provide a more accurate portrait of the number of same-sex couples. We’re providing all three — the revised, original and ACS estimates — together to provide users with the full, transparent picture of our current measurement of same-sex couples.”
The 2010 Census preferred estimates have been peer-reviewed by Gary Gates, a demographer with the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, by Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and by Megan Sweeney, professor of sociology at UCLA. These experts concluded the methodology behind these revised estimates was sound.
All three sets of estimates are available at both the national and state levels and provide estimates of the presence of the couple’s own children. The 2010 Census revised estimates provide a 10-year benchmark, while the ACS estimates are useful for looking at a yearly time series.