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Same-Sex Couples

How the ACS deals with same-sex relationships is changing rapidly.

Overview

As laws about same-sex marriage have changed in the United States, the Census Bureau has been adapting. From the beginning of the American Community Survey, table B11009 has been the only table which provided information about people who have told the Census Bureau that they live with a partner of the same sex. This table was originally called Unmarried-Partner Households by Sex of Partner, and provided counts of same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples, including estimates of male/male and female/female same-sex couples.

Beginning with the 2019 American Community Survey, the Census Bureau directly included same-sex married and unmarried relationships as part of the queston about how people in the household are related to the householder. With the release of that data, table B11009 was renamed to Coupled Households By Type, and the table structure was changed to report married and unmarried couples in each combination of sex.

As explained in the Census Bureau's Frequently Asked Questions About Same-Sex Couple Households document (2013), since the 2000 Decennial Census, responses reporting a spouse of the same sex as the householder were changed to indicate an unmarried partner, regardless of state laws permitting same-sex marriage. In the 1990 Decennial Census, when response indicated a same-sex married couple, the relationship (spouse) was preserved, but the sex of the partner was changed.

Beginning with the 2013 American Community Survey data,, tables with a line for "married couples" include both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages in one number. No tables were added or changed to directly provide data about the respective numbers of opposite-sex and same-sex marriages, although some supplemental data releases are available. In the ACS, columns which use the words "husband" and "wife" continue to reflect heteronormative assumptions, although many of those are "no husband/wife present."