Census Bureau Admits It 'Artifcially Inflated the Number of Same-Sex Couples'

Elizabeth Harrington | September 28, 2011 | 1:48pm EDT
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In the Gay Pride Parade in New York City in 2009, a float portrayed a wedding cake with a same-sex couple on top of it. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(CNSNews.com) - The Census Bureau admitted Tuesday that it had “artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples” in the United States, initially reporting a number that was about 40 percent higher than what it now believes is accurate.

The original data published by the 2010 Census set the number of same-sex households in the U.S. in 2010 at 901,997, including 349,377 same-sex married couple households and 552,620 same-sex unmarried partner households.

But the Census Bureau said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters that it has revised these numbers downward “because Census Bureau staff discovered an inconsistency in the responses in the 2010 Census summary file statistics that artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples.”

The Census Bureau now says the 2010 Census found that there were 131,729 same-sex married couple households and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households in the United States--for a total of 646,464 same-sex-couple households.

Given that the Census Bureau says there were 116,716,292 total households in the United States in 2010, that means same-sex households made up only 0.55 percent of the total. Had there actually been 901,997 same-sex households in the United States--the "artificially inflated" number the Census Bureau originally reported--that would have equaled ony 0.77 percent of the households in the country.

According to the Census Bureau, the problem with the Census data on same-sex couples was due to “data capture errors” that were caused by the confusing layout on the 2010 Census forms--“the matrix format”--where entering a person’s sex often did not accurately reflect that person’s gender.

Households are identified as same-sex based on the sex of the responder and the relationship of the household members, as either unmarried partner or husband or wife, according to the Census Bureau.

Boxes on the Census form for “male” and “female” were stacked on top of each other, making it more likely for a person to mark the wrong gender or make erroneous lines, changing the results.

“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 news release said.

“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,” the Census Bureau said.

The Census Bureau “Names Index” matched common names to their corresponding genders, such as identifying “John” or “Thomas” as male and “Elizabeth” and “Virginia” as female. The index helped solve the “name-sex inconsistencies” which had increased the numbers of same-sex couples.

After it accounted for the “data capture errors,” the number of same-sex couples in the country was revised to 646,464 from 901,997. Thus, the Census Bureau had "artificially inflated" the number of same-sex couples by 255,533--or 39.5 percent.

The Census Bureau said that the errors were not realized until it was too late to alter the 2010 forms.

But the inaccuracies prompted the Bureau to devise a “Preferred Estimate,” revealed Tuesday, to more accurately depict the incidences of same-sex households, according to Martin O’Connell, chief of the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, during a conference call to highlight the new data.

“There is no dispute that same-sex couple population increased between 2000 and 2010," said O’Connell, during the briefing.

“What we tried to do was try to get a better grip on exactly what the numbers were and what the actual increase was,” he said. "We tried to eliminate population numbers that seemed artificially high using this estimate, and that's what we came up with."

In 2000, the number of same-sex households, as calculated by the 2000 Census, was 594,391.

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