Same-Sex and Marriage in the Census

Aug 8, 2012 by

New Census Bureau data released Monday from the American Community Survey of 3 million households shows that 76% of those who have ever been married, have been married just one time. The figures are 20% for those who have been married twice and 5% have been married three or more times. The new data also shows almost 200,000 fewer same-sex couples than the previous year with 565,000 same-sex couples in 2008 and 754,000 in 2007.

Census officials stated there was no intention of altering the estimates of same-sex populations and that the higher numbers in previous years were due to a confusing survey layout and formatting errors and that both problems have been corrected for 2008. With the Obama administration under pressure from gay-rights groups to provide accurate numbers, the Census Bureau is preparing to make the first official count of same-sex marriages, unions and partnerships in the 2010 Census.

Both the 2008 community survey form and the 2010 Census form include more questions and go into more detail about legal same-sex spouses as well as unmarried partners. The Bureau claims problems with past data collection included many different-sex married couples checking the wrong sex box and generating “contaminated” same-sex couples data. It is hoped the new forms will help people in the same-sex community to make themselves more visible on the Census and other federal surveys.

The new marriage data reflects trends around the world, including rising numbers of those who have never married according to demographers at the non-profit Population Reference Bureau, based in Washington, D.C. In the United States, the percentage of women 15 years and older who have never been married has risen steadily about one percent per year, with just over 28% of women having never been married in 2008 according to past research. The number is expected to continue to rise in the 2010 report.
Another new statistic category for the Census is marriage duration, with the current nationwide average duration of a marriage being about 18.2 years. That the 18-year figure coincides with the amount of time it takes most children to become independent is probably not a coincidence.

Some survey analysts have speculated that the disparities in the numbers of same-sex couples are probably a reflection of those now in committed relationships who would get married if they legally could do so in their home states. The numbers also indicate a potentially larger count to come in the 2010 census, with numbers that could spark new debates over same-sex marriage and gay adoptions.

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