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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 30 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 22
Census to count same-sex married couples as families
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Census to count same-sex married couples as families

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Census Bureau announced May 26 that it will now count married same-sex couples as families, rather than as unmarried partners, as they have previously done.

The first time the new method of counting Gay and Lesbian spouses appears will be in September, when the 2013 American Community Survey results are reported. An estimated 180,000 same-sex married couples will be included in the statistics for the country's 56 million families.

'I think the American public already thinks same-sex married couples are families, and the Census Bureau is just catching up with public opinion,' said Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who studies families.

The Census Bureau has counted same-sex couples for almost a decade, but the statistics have not been reported as part of the data on families. Instead, they have been segregated out and reported as 'unmarried partners,' whether the couples were legally married or not.

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 USA v. Windsor decision, which struck down DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), paved the way for the census to change the way it tracks same-sex households after years of discussions about doing so.

'Windsor didn't obligate us to do anything,' said Rose Kreider, chief of the fertility and family statistics branch of the Census Bureau. 'But it in some ways made it easier to say: It's legally recognized federally, so it's time for us to throw them in with all married couples.'

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing statistical survey sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly, or 3 million per year. It was initiated in 1996 to gather information previously contained only in the census 'long form' which is distributed every 10 years. Census Bureau officials began the program because many respondents found filling out the census long form burdensome, and simply stopped doing it.

The survey began reporting data in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and was fully functional by 2005.

In 2010, the ACS produced its first set of estimates for areas of all population sizes, using information collected from January 2005 through December 2009.

The Census Bureau says it is continually reassessing the questions it asks and how it phrases them. For example, it is currently considering a combined race and ethnicity question because many Hispanics are confused about how to identify themselves racially.

Typically, the Census Bureau consults experts and tests surveys for several years before it adds or alters the wording of a question. Consequently, changes often come years after they have become a familiar part of American culture.

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