This week the Census Bureau came out with revised statistics on the number of same-sex married couples. As of 2010, there were 131,729 same-sex married couples living in the U.S., and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households. These numbers are way below the previous estimates released last summer, which tabulated the number of same-sex married couples as 349,377, and same-sex unmarried partner households 552,620.
So, did 217,648 same-sex married couples simply vanish in the span of a couple months? No, the error seems to be due to a small number of people checking the wrong gender box on the door-to-door census form. Here’s the explanation:
Statistics on same-sex couple households are derived from two questions on the census and [American Community Survey] 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.
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.
Right. The release also includes a mea culpa of sorts from the Census Bureau director:
“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. “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.”
HT [Justin Wolfers]