Ever wondered how many gay people there are in this country? How many of us have children? How much we earn? Where we live? Whether we receive public assistance?
Well, no one can give perfect answers to these questions. No large, reliable data source asks people their sexual orientation (and of course it's not clear that would reveal accurate information.) But there's an amazing amount of research that comes out of the Williams Institute, a think tank located at UCLA Law School, and none is more interesting that research based on the US Census.
The census doesn't ask sexual orientation, but it allows household members to identify as unmarried partners, and from that, coupled with the sex of each, it is possible to get information about same-sex couples. Gary Gates, the Institute's leading demographer, is also the author of The Gay and Lesbian Atlas, complete with color maps for every state and every county on the number of same-sex couples in the country, based on the 2000 Census.
Often Gary has unpublished research in the works. This morning I read a recent paper he coauthored with Adam Romero on same-sex couples raising children. Some facts from the paper: 40% of same-sex couples in Mississippi are raising children, the highest percentage in the country; African-American and Latina women in same-sex couples are twice as likely as white female couples to be raising a child; African-American and Latina men in same-sex couples are three times as likely as their white male counterparts; both male and female couples raising children have less income than married heterosexual couples and are more likely to have received public assistance than married heterosexual couples. A large portion of these children likely stem from previous heterosexual relationships. This research will appear as a chaper in a forthcoming book called Marriage and Family: Multiple Complexities and Perspectives to be published by Columbia University Press.
RIght now, the Williams Institute in leading the effort to get the 2010 US Census to count as married those couples legally married in Massachusetts and California. Astonishingly (or maybe not given this administration), the government says it can't do this because of DOMA. If anyone can convince them otherwise, it's the terrific folks at the Williams Institute.