California Study Debunks Stereotypes About Same-Sex Couples Raising Children, Plus New U.S. Geographic Data

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

A recently released study conducted by a group of Bay Area organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families “found that same-sex couples raising children in California are read likely to be people of color and that their median household income is 17 percent lower than the income of married couples with children,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Judy Appel, director of the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco, told the Chronicle, “There is an idea of LGBT families, when people think about it at all, there’s this perception that it’s affluent white folks, and the data show that’s based on our own misperceptions. We’re in every neighborhood, every race, ethnicity and economic group. Our kids are playing in the playgrounds and parks with all other kids.”

The report (PDF) was produced by the Our Family Coalition, the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, using U.S. census data from 2000, the first year respondents reported on whether they were living with a same-sex partner, and several other studies, including two by the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law.

From the Chronicle:

The Williams Project found 1,400 same-sex couples raising children in Alameda County and close to 700 in San Francisco. The Our Families report notes that the numbers are probably on the low side because the census tracked only same-gender couples raising children, not gay and lesbian individuals with children.

The “Our Families” report focused on San Francisco and Alameda counties, which are ranked No. 2 and No. 4 respectively for the number of gay and lesbian couples among counties in the state. Los Angeles is No. 1, and San Diego is No. 3.

In Alameda and San Francisco counties, the report found, a large proportion of gay and lesbian couples raising children were nonwhite. In addition, 69 percent of same-sex parents were women. Those two factors could help explain why same-sex families have lower incomes, Appel said, because women and people of color earn less on average.

Plus: The Williams Institute released a research brief this month that looks at how the geographic distribution of same-sex couples is changing across the United States. The report, available here (PDF), includes these key findings:

* The number of same-sex couples reporting themselves as “unmarried partners” has quintupled since 1990 from 145,000 to nearly 780,000.

* The number of same-sex couples increased 21 times faster than the U.S. population from 1990 to 2006.

* The biggest increases from 1990 to 2006 were in Southern and Mountain states.

* Top 10 rankings of states and cities by concentration of same-sex couples (same-sex couples per 1,000 households) have remained quite stable comparing 1990, 2000 and 2006. But there have been a few big movers:
— Utah has moved from the lower third of states in 1990 to the upper third in 2006 (38th to 14th).
— Delaware has gone from 33rd to 12th.
— New Mexico from 16th to 2nd.

As the report notes, the regional increases in same-sex couples are likely due in large part to an increasing number of lesbians and gay men who are read forthcoming in surveys about their sexual orientation and living arrangements.

One indication of this, according to the research, is that socially conservative areas experienced the largest increases. Check out these numbers:

* From 2000 to 2006, states that banned same-sex marriage had increases in same-sex couples of 37 percent, exceeding the national pace of 31 percent.

* Places that actually had voter referendums had even larger increases of 41 percent.

* Places with no bans had an increase of 27 percent, below the national average.

* Conversely, states that created formal recognition of same-sex couples had the lowest average percentage increase — 23 percent.

The analysis is based on census enumerations along with data from the 2002 through 2006 American Community Surveys.

One Comment

  1. Cary says:

    What I find interesting is that according to the research, is that socially conservative areas experienced the largest increases. I guess that gay couples in those areas are forced to declare in order to vote accordingly and have their voice heard.

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