The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that it will begin categorizing same-sex married couples as “families.”
According to the Washington Post, the 2013 American Community Survey results, which are scheduled to be reported in September, will for the first time include same-sex married couples in statistics that pertain to America’s families. In prior years’ survey results, same-sex couples were identified as “unmarried partners” even when they reported themselves as “married.”
“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.
The Post observes that the very small number of same-sex couples – approximately 180,000 – in the U.S. as a fraction of the nation’s 56 million families is not expected to have a significant effect on the statistics used by government planners and researchers.
Rose Kreider, chief of the fertility and family statistics branch of the Census Bureau, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, did not obligate the Census Bureau to begin categorizing same-sex couples as “families.”
“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,” Kreider said.
Despite the fact that slightly less than one percent of all coupled households in the United States are same-sex couples, the Census Bureau will be testing new questions they anticipate will be introduced in surveys beginning in 2016. Census participants will be asked to check one of four options regarding their relationship: opposite-sex spouses, opposite-sex unmarried partners, same-sex spouses, or same-sex partners.
In addition, they will also be asked whether they are part of a registered domestic partnership or a civil union.
“We’re trying to make changes that reflect what’s happening with American families,” Kreider said. “We’ve been working on it for some years, and we’re continuing to work on it to improve the measurement of American families and emerging family forms.”