How Many LGBT Families Are There?
Getting a nationwide picture of the LGBT community has been difficult, but research on the federal level is beginning to include LGBT couples. The 2010 Census was the first US Census to provide same-sex couples who live together the option to report themselves as married partners.(1) The US Census is collected every ten years from every household in America. As data is released to the public, we can begin to look at national trends in the geographic and demographic distribution of same-sex couple households, both married and unmarried.
It’s important to note that the 2010 Census only counted same-sex couples who were living together at the time of the census. LGBT singles, same-sex couples who do not live together, and relationships including members of the bisexual and transgender communities, are not counted in the Census (yet!).
From Sea to Shining Sea
In the 2010 Census, same-sex couples were recorded in all fifty states as well as the District of Columbia. According to the revised estimates of same-sex couples, 646,464 households (0.6% of all US households) were headed by a same-sex couple.(2) The 2010 Census, the first to include “married” as an option for same-sex partners, counted 131,729 same-sex couples who identified as married, who were present in every state in the United States. Same-sex households were counted in higher regional concentrations along the East and West coasts, as well as the Southwestern region of the United States.
The states with the highest rates of same-sex households are along the East and West Coasts, but New Mexico also made the top ten. The cities with the highest rate of same-sex households include urban centers like San Francisco, Long Beach, and Boston, but Atlanta (Georgia), Minneapolis (Minnesota) and Denver (Colorado) also made the list of top ten cities with same-sex households.
Same-Sex Couples with Children
The Census also reported that over 110,000 same-sex couples are raising children, in all regions of the country. There were differences in child-raising by marital status: 30% of married same-sex couples were raising children, as compared to 14% of unmarried same-sex couples.
Black and Latino same-sex couples are more likely to be raising children than Caucasian same-sex couples (twice as likely, according to preliminary data). One third of couples with at least one Hispanic partner are raising children. Census data also indicates that same-sex households including Black and Latino members are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to experience certain forms of discrimination.
A Diversity of Data
Other new findings from the 2010 Census data include that more than 20% of same-sex couples in the Census are interracial or interethnic (partners are of different races or ethnicities), compared to 18.3% of different-sex married couples and 9.5% of different sex unmarried couples.
Proponents of the Census have remarked on how new data about same-sex couples, geography, child-rearing, and race/ethnicity give us a very diverse picture of the LGBT community. Here at the IMPACT Program, where our research has always included a broad range of voices, we are glad that the 2010 Census is reflecting what many of us know is true of our communities.
(1) The 2000 Census counted same-sex couples as unmarried, regardless of their actual status. The 2010 Census is the first to include the married option, as more states have now legalized same-sex marriage.
(2) Getting Accurate Data on Same-Sex Couples: The US Census Bureau has struggled to count same-sex couples in an accurate way, and had to re-examine and re-release the 2010 data for same-sex couples in September of 2011. At the time, Census Bureau Director Robert Graves described the issue by stating “We understand how important it is for all groups to have accurate statistics that reflect who we are as a nation…[the Bureau] developed the revised estimates to provide a more accurate portrait of the number of same-sex couples.” (Read more here.). The data we report on is based on these revised estimates.
Gates, G.J. (2012). Same-sex Couples in Census 2010: Race and Ethnicity. The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/same-sex-couples-census-2010-race-ethnicity/
Gates, G.J. , & A. M. Cooke. (2012) United States Census Snapshot: 2010. The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Census2010Snapshot-US-v2.pdf
The Williams Institute. (2011, October 5). Census 2010 Data Shows Same-Sex Couples Identified As Spouses In Every State; First Revised Estimates Of Same-Sex Couples For Cities and Counties. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/census-2010-data-shows-same-sex-couples-identified-as-spouses-in-every-state-first-revised-estimates-of-same-sex-couples-for-cities-and-counties/
United Press International. (2011, September 27). Census Bureau recounts gay households. Retrieved from http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/09/27/Census-Bureau-recounts-gay-households/UPI-54621317151654/#ixzz1viY2gZMr
US Census Bureau. (2011, September 27). “Census Bureau Releases Estimates of Same-Sex Married Couples.” Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn181.html