Counting Same-Sex Couples: Official Estimates and Unofficial Guesses

Martin O'Connell, U.S. Census Bureau
Daphne A. Lofquist, U.S. Census Bureau

When editing Census Bureau data since 2000, in same-sex married couple households, the respondent reported as the spouse was changed to the unmarried partner of the householder. Until 2004, no state granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the United States. However, marriages between same-sex couples have been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, in Connecticut since 2008, and briefly in California in 2008, thus creating differences in how respondents report data and how data are shown in Census Bureau publications. We will discuss the history of these editing decisions and present “unofficial” estimates of the numbers of respondents who reported themselves as same-sex married couples in Census 2000 and in the American Community Survey during the transitional periods when states began to legalize same-sex marriages. Finally, we will present some general characteristics of married opposite-sex couples, unmarried opposite-sex couples, and unmarried same-sex couples by their reporting status.

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Presented in Session 7: Measurement and Estimates of Cohabitation