By Aaron Earls
In 2015, the United States legalized same-sex marriage. In 2020, it will count same-sex couples for the first time in the national census.
The list of questions the U.S. Census Bureau sent to Congress for review includes a check box for same-sex couples.
Previously, the census had been overestimating the number of same-sex couples in the U.S.
The bureau had been using the answers to two separate questions to get an approximation of the number of married same-sex couples.
In 2013, the census reported there were 250,000 same-sex couples, but acknowledged this was likely an overcount due to heterosexual married couples mistakenly checking the wrong gender box.
Daphne Lofquist, a researcher at the Census Bureau, evaluated the frequency of checking the wrong gender box and estimated the real number of same-sex couples was closer to 170,000, about 68 percent of the official number.
In the 2020 Census, respondents will see additional options for how a person in their household is related to them.
It will include boxes for “opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse,” “opposite-sex unmarried partner,” along with “same-sex husband/wife/spouse,” and “same-sex unmarried partner.”
Other changes to the relationship option will also be made for the 2020 Census. “Foster child,” which was dropped in 2010, will be added back.
The census will remove “roomer or boarder” as a category. According to Pew Research, that option has been on the census form for more than a century, but the living arrangement is far less common than it used to be.
In total 16 categories will be listed, two more than in 2010.
Previous research found the number of individuals in a same-sex marriage to be small, even after the Supreme Court legalizing it in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Before the ruling in 2015, Gallup said 7.9 percent of Americans who identified as LGBT were married to a same-sex spouse. By 2017, that had climbed to 10.2 percent of LGBT Americans.
According to Gallup’s research, more LGBT Americans were married to a member of the opposite sex than were in a same-sex marriage.
Overall, Gallup found only 4.1 percent of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT, though the rate is higher among millennials (7.3 percent) than any other generation.
Many Americans mistakenly believe the number is much higher. On average, Gallup found Americans believe 23 percent of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.