The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is looking for ways to count same-sex marriages in the 2010 Census.
Perhaps you are as surprised as I was to learn that this is not already available in U.S. Census data sets, our nation’s self-portrait of itself. When I learned of the issue a few months back via the kyle+blog (my personal news source for all things gay-marriage), I was astounded. You mean to say that not only is the Bureau not reporting same-sex couples, but it’s altering the data when people report themselves as such? Look at the detail in some of the Family Status and Household Relationship tables. Why would same-sex households be omitted?
Folks, this is data, not politics. Why in the world wouldn’t we all want the U.S. Census Bureau to paint an accurate picture of U.S. households?
And why in the world are we quibbling about legal status, anyway? We count unmarried opposite-sex couples without requiring any sort of legal document, so while we’re at it, why wouldn’t we want to know the number of unmarried same-sex couples as well?
A couple is a couple, if they want to identify themselves as such. In 2005, the Census Bureau reported:
Number of unmarried-partner households in 2005. These households consist of a householder living with someone of the opposite sex who was identified as their unmarried partner.
Another report shows us that 39 percent of opposite-sex, unmarried-partner households include children.
So where’s the number for same-sex unmarried couples? Can someone clarify for me whether this info is collected and reported?
I really think this one transcends politics. Yes, federal and state governments use Census data to apportion money and political power and to set policy. But Census data has a host of other uses, and its importance to our knowledge of this country cannot be understated. Researchers use it as the basis of their work to tell us more about the nation we live in. Businesses use it to gauge need for products and services, to find the best location, to learn how to market themselves. (And don’t get me started on the economic impact of same-sex marriage.) Give this list a quick scan and you will have to agree — no matter your personal opinion about homosexuality — that we are doing everyone a disservice by not collecting and reporting data on both married and unmarried same-sex couples.