The 2020 Census asks cohabitating couples to define their relationship in a new way: "same-sex" or "opposite-sex.”
The question is the first time in the Census Bureau’s history was asked in its decennial survey of every household in America.
Sample question from the 2020 Census / US Census Bureau
The Census is delaying the release of the detailed tables from the 2020 Census due in part to the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on data collection. In the meantime, data from the Census’ 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) not only estimates the number of same-sex couples, but also provides a demographic and geographic understanding of such relationships.
The annual survey offers a glimpse into gay and lesbian couples in America, but the data is limited. Currently, the Census does not tabulate measures of alternative arrangements—such as civil unions or domestic partnerships—and the measurements of the marriage status of same-sex couples have been found by some Census research to be imperfect.
What percent of same-sex couples are married?
The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. At the time, the number of same-sex married couples and same-sex unmarried partner couples were about equal: 425,357 married and 433,539 unmarried. Since 2015, the number of same-sex married couples has risen while the number of same-sex unmarried couples has mostly declined.
In 2019, there were a total of 980,276 same-sex couples. Of these, about 47% (462,215) were male-male while about 53% (518,061) were female-female.
Of the 568,110 same-sex married couples in the US, about 47% (264,691) were male only and about 53% (303,419) female only.
For the 412,166 same-sex unmarried partner couples, about 48% (197,524) were male only. About 52% (214,642) were female only.
How do same-sex couples differ by race and ethnicity?
In 2019, 80% of same-sex married couples were white, 14.6% were Hispanic, 7.4% were Black. About 76% of unmarried same-sex couples were white, about 16% were Hispanic, and 12% were Black.
White same-sex couples were the most evenly distributed across gender. Of all male-male couples, 82.6% were white. Of all female-female couples, 79.6% were female-female.
Black same-sex couples are the only race where female-only unions outranked male-only unions. About 6% of all male-male couples were Black while 11.1% of all female-female unions were made up of Black couples.
Same-sex couples had a higher percentage of mixed-race relationships than opposite-sex couples. 7.8% of married opposite-sex couples were interracial while 18.3% of same-sex couples were interracial.
What does Census data say about same-sex couple income, employment, and education?
Compared with opposite-sex couples, same-sex married couples were more likely to have higher household incomes, be employed, and be more educated. In 26.1% of adults in same-sex married households had earned a bachelor’s degree compared with 23.1% of opposite-sex households. About 81.5% of adults in same-sex households were employed. In opposite-sex households, 78.2% of adults in those households held jobs. Same-sex married couples had a $107,200 median household income compared to $96,930 for opposite-sex married couples.
Where are same-sex couples living in America?
About 0.9% of coupled households are same-sex married households nationwide as of 2019.
Twelve states and Washington, DC had a higher percentage of same-sex married couples than the national figure. Washington, DC led the group with 4.4% of coupled households being same-sex marriage households.
Read more on the state of relationships in the US.