Census Bureau Cuts Number of Same-Sex Married Couples in Half

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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]

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  1. Justin Bassett says:

    Makes sense. I remember accidentally checking the wrong gender for my girlfriend when filling out my census – I had to white it out and make a note. That sort of stuff happens when you’re on autopilot.

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  2. ELH says:

    So approximately 210,000 married people are unable to articulate the correct gender of their spouse?

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  3. James says:

    It’d be a lot easier to count if every citizen had the same legal right to marriage and we didn’t have to rely on people’s lack of competence reading simple forms.

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  4. dave gershner says:

    Many more would be married if DOMA overturned and legal throughout the US, which the pubs are against despite the fact that many millionaire gays (think Silicaon Valley) and other high taxpayers are being deprived of their civil rights.
    Remember when GOP used to be for individual liberty and againt government interference in a citizens’ life. What happened to that? GOP decided bible more important than Constitution. UNFAIR.

    Many years ago Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the following words that are in quotes: The court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its decision, the court wrote:

    “ Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival..” In this case the Court ruled unanimously a state could not stand in the way of marriage between a black and white person. Why should any state be able to stand in the way of civil marriage between two persons of the same sex, if indeed as said in Loving v. Virginia, marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights” of man?

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