Benchmarking Census Same-Sex Unmarried Partner Data with Other Glbt Survey Data
Gary J. Gates, Urban Institute
Christopher Carpenter, University of California, Irvine
Perhaps the most widely cited data source used to explore demographic characteristics of the gay and lesbian population in the United States is the decennial census, which allows for the identification same-sex “unmarried partners,” commonly understood as coupled gay men and lesbians. We compare census data with three additional surveys using probability sampling that have relatively large samples of gay men and lesbians and include questions on partnership status: the Urban Men’s Health Study (UMHS), the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), and the California GLBT Tobacco Survey. These comparative analyzes begin to illuminate both common demographic traits as well as differences that might be in part due to methodological differences related to measuring sexual orientation. We also consider how a couples-only sample potentially biases characteristics relative to samples with both coupled and single gay and lesbian people and assess several census-related measurement error issues.