How do people in same-sex couples compare to opposite-sex couples?

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Larger share of people in same-sex couples have graduate or professional degrees than people in opposite-sex couples

By Zachary Scherer and Lydia Anderson

WASHINGTON D.C. – There were roughly 980,000 same-sex couple households in the United States in 2019 and most were married — around 58% compared to 42% unmarried.

The U.S. Census Bureau publishes an annual table package on the characteristics of same-sex couple households based on American Community Survey (ACS) data that goes back to 2005.  However, most of the estimates included in this table package are at the national level.

Now, a new data visualization allows users to explore characteristics of same-sex and opposite-sex married and unmarried couple households at the state level in 2019. Since the visualization is based on ACS data, only couples that include the householder are reflected.

Some highlights of 2019 data in the visualization:

  • Nationally, 53.4% of people in same-sex married couples were female and 46.6% were male.
  • Among people in same-sex unmarried couples in the United States, 52.1% were female and 47.9% were male.
  • In Ohio, about one-quarter of people in opposite-sex married couples and 12.4% of those in same-sex married couples were ages 65 and older.
  • In New York, 13.8% of same-sex and 32.5% of opposite-sex unmarried couples lived with children under the age of 18.
  • In California, 29.4% of people in same-sex married couples had a graduate degree, compared to 16.8% of people in opposite-sex married couples.
  • In Florida, 11.2% of people in same-sex unmarried couples were without health insurance at the time of interview, compared to 21.8% of people in opposite-sex unmarried couples.

A recently published brief highlights the geographic distribution of same-sex couple households and explores selected characteristics of opposite-sex and same-sex couples using data from the 2019 American Community Survey. It also examines the presence of children by couple type.

In 2019, the ACS relationship question expanded to include separate categories for opposite-sex and same-sex spouses and unmarried partners. Please note that the same-sex couples in this visualization include only those where the spouse or unmarried partner of the householder is a same-sex partner (and the sex values for the householder and the spouse or partner are the same). 

ACS data do not measure whether people belong to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+) community. Further information regarding how the Census Bureau has changed how it collects information about same-sex couples over time is available.

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