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Counting Same-Sex Couples: Official Estimates and Unofficial Guesses

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Since 2000, Census Bureau editing programs have assigned the response of the person reported as the spouse of the householder in a same-sex couple household to that of being the unmarried partner of the householder. Up until 2004, no state granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the United States. However, marriages between same-sex couples have been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, in Connecticut since 2008, and briefly in California in 2008, thus creating differences in how respondents report data and how data are shown in Census Bureau publications. We will discuss the history of these editing decisions and present “unofficial” estimates of the numbers of respondents who reported themselves as same-sex married couples in Census 2000 and in the American Community Survey during the transitional periods when states began to legalize same-sex marriages. Finally, we will present some general characteristics of opposite-sex couples, both married and unmarried, and of same-sex unmarried couples, by their reporting status.


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