How Accurate Are Counts of Same-Sex Couples?

Aug 25, 2011

The counts and characteristics of same-sex couples are among the most written-about data from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey. Yet, two decades after the Census Bureau began offering people the option to describe themselves as a same-sex “unmarried partner,” producing accurate numbers remains a challenge.

The quality of information about same-sex couples depends both on the questionnaire responses the Census Bureau receives, and the procedures the agency implements to collect and edit those responses. There have been changes to both during the years the bureau has been releasing same-sex couple data, and the agency has cautioned against comparing numbers from different years to produce trends.

The Census Bureau has just completed the release of state-by-state total counts of same-sex couples from the 2010 Census, which adds up to a national total of about 902,000. Later this year, the bureau will release a highly anticipated count of same-sex married couples from the 2010 Census, the first time it has done so from a decennial census. In conjunction with that release, the bureau will publish its own evaluation of data quality about same-sex couples. This posting describes what is known so far about data quality for both married and unmarried same-sex couples from past censuses, the American Community Survey and Census Bureau research.

Read the full report, How Accurate Are Counts of Same-Sex Couples?, on the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Web site. 

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