Same-Sex Marital Questions to Appear on 2020 Census

Same-Sex Marital California
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La Jolla, CA – For the first time in more than 200 years of collecting information, the 2020 census will add specific check boxes for same-sex couples to identify themselves, according to Pew Research Center.

The reason behind this addition is to correct the overcounting of same-sex couples, which is a problem that has plagued the census in the past.

The 2020 census form will be updated to include separate categories for “opposite-sex” and “same-sex” spouses and unmarried partners, according to Pew Research.

Under the present system, the U.S. Census Bureau gathers information on same-sex couples by asking two questions. One is about the sex of the person responding to the survey; the other about how each person who lives in the household is related to the person answering the survey.

Pew reported in 2015 that the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey had estimated that there were 252,000 same-sex married couples in the United States. However, the Bureau acknowledged that this count likely was inaccurate because some heterosexual married couples had erroneously checked the incorrect gender box on the survey questionnaire.

Census Bureau researcher Daphne Lofquist estimated the actual number of same-sex married couples in the 2013 American Community Survey to be about 170,000.
The new wording for the 2020 census was designed to help prevent misreporting.

“If people give inconsistent answers to the relationship and gender questions when responding online, a question will pop up alerting the respondent of the discrepancy,” a Pew Research article states. “If there is an inconsistency on a written questionnaire, the bureau will have the option to change an answer.”

A Census Bureau spokesperson provided this comment via email about the same-sex couple information to NBC News in April:

“As our population and communities change, so do their needs. To better collect more detailed data about types of coupled households, the Census Bureau expanded the single response option of ‘husband or wife’ or ‘unmarried partner’ to the two response options of ‘opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse’ and ‘same-sex husband/wife/spouse,’ and ‘opposite-sex unmarried partner’ and ‘same-sex unmarried partner.’”

Information on same-sex married couples is important because this population segment is growing now that same-sex marriages are legal throughout the U.S. The demand for good data about these couples from government officials, researchers and advocates is growing, according to Pew Research.

Knowing how many same-sex marriages there are in the U.S. can assist officials in determining the demand for benefits based on marital status.

A census has been conducted every decade since 1790, according to This Nation. No other nation matches the U.S.’s long history of gathering information about its population and other important demographic characteristics.

Census data has the following uses:

  • Determining how federal funds are allocated for education programs throughout the country.
  • National social and health statistics are used by numerous government agencies for policy purposes.
  • Determining how federal dollars for law enforcement, highway projects, farm aid and other federally financed activities and programs are allocated.
  • Determining various economic statistics that help shape the country’s economic policies.

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