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More same-sex couples are raising kids and out-earning straight couples

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Same-sex couples are increasingly raising children, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau
Same-sex couples are increasingly raising children, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Photo: Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau  

Same-sex couples are increasingly raising children and are out-earning straight couples, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. But poverty remains a key concern for many LGBTQ couples in America.

The snapshot of the country's LGBTQ households comes from 2019 American Community Survey findings analyzed by the federal agency. Respondents were given the ability to specify whether they were in opposite- or same-sex relationships, significantly improving the data collected on same-sex couples.

In previous surveys, respondents could only identify themselves as a spouse or an unmarried partner (sometimes referred to as cohabiting couple) when asked what their relationship was to the householder (person who rents or owns a home and whose name is on the deed/lease), noted the agency.

Fifteen percent (14.7%) of the 1.1 million same-sex couples in the United States in 2019 had at least one child under 18 in their household, compared with 37.8% of opposite-sex couples, reported the census bureau. The data also revealed same-sex couples tend to have smaller families. Among couples with children, 54.7% of same-sex couples only had one child, compared with 39.2% of opposite-sex couples.

Overall, the survey found about 292,000 children had parents living with a same-sex partner or spouse. Two-thirds (66.3%) were children of both partners or spouses, compared with 95.7% of children living with opposite-sex couples.

And the data showed that adopted children and stepchildren were especially common among same-sex couples, reported the agency. In 2019, 10.5% of children under 18 who lived with opposite-sex couples were adopted or stepchildren of at least one person in the couple. Same-sex couples, meanwhile, are four times more likely than opposite-sex couples to have adopted children or stepchildren; 43.3% of children of same-sex couples were adopted or stepchildren in 2019.

Female same-sex couples continue to be far more likely to be parents than their male peers. In 2019, 22.5% of female same-sex couple households had children under 18 present, compared with 6.6% of male same-sex couple households, according to the survey data.

The agency also reported that same-sex married couples have a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples but their poverty rates are not significantly different. Overall, same-sex married couples had a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples: $107,200 and $96,930, respectively, reported the census bureau.

Female same-sex couples continue to earn less than their male peers. Same-sex female married couples had a lower median household income than same-sex male married couples: $95,720 and $123,600, respectively, reported the census bureau.

Median household income is higher for same-sex married couples than for opposite-sex married couples in the New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Pacific divisions, reported the agency. And it also found that the poverty rate for same-sex married-couple households is lower than opposite-sex married-couple households in the West South Central and the Pacific division.

The data did show that the poverty rate for same-sex married-couple households is higher than the poverty rate for opposite-sex married-couple households in the West North Central and East South Central divisions. In the New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, East North Central, and Mountain divisions, however, it was not statistically significantly different from opposite-sex married couple households.

The survey data also showed that same-sex male married couples had a higher income than opposite-sex married couples but the difference in median household income between opposite-sex and female same-sex married couples was not statistically significant, reported the agency.

In 2019, same-sex married couples accounted for just 1.0% of married-couple households in the United States. This small share is partly due to fewer same-sex relationships overall, explained the agency, which are also low among unmarried partners (5.1%).

The agency added that lower marriage rates among same-sex households also contribute: 88% of opposite-sex- and 58% of same-sex-couple households were married. Among same-sex married-couple households, 47% were male couples and 53% were female couples, the survey found.

As for those struggling to get by, the survey data found that male same-sex married households had a lower poverty rate than opposite-sex married-couple households (2.7% and 4.2%, respectively). It also showed that female same-sex married-couple households had a higher poverty rate (5.0%) than both opposite-sex and male same-sex married-couple households.

The census bureau surmised the poverty rates might be impacted by whether couples have children. Some 38.0% of opposite-sex married-couple households had their own children under the age of 18 living with them, while approximately 9.3% of male and 26.5% of female same-sex married-couple households had their children living with them, according to the survey data.


To read more about the income data for same-sex households, click here.

For further information about the child-rearing data, click here.

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