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The future of same-sex marriage by the numbers

By Sydney Beveridge


This week, the US Supreme Court heard two cases that could change same-sex marriage laws nationwide. If the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 are ruled illegal, same-sex couples around the nation could rush to the altar this summer.

To help measure the impact of this ruling on the population, Social Explorer took a look at data on same-sex couples. The Census and American Community Survey collect data on unmarried partners living together. These numbers offer some insight into how many co-habitating same-sex partners might consider marriage if it became a legal right.

According to the 2011 American Community Survey:

  • There were 605,472 same-sex unmarried partners nationwide.
  • Those couples accounted for 9% of all unmarried partner households.
  • There were 87,078 unmarried same-sex partners in California.
  • California accounts for 14.4% of same-sex partners living together.


The New York Times household comparison tool created with Social Explorer and IPUMS data and analysis shows that unmarried same-sex partners have higher incomes than both married couples and unmarried opposite-sex partners.

You can explore a more detailed view of same-sex unmarried partners in California, your neighborhood, and elsewhere using Social Explorer’s five-year American Community Survey map.

Interactive Map of Same-Sex Unmarried Partners (American Community Survey 2006-10)

Click to Explore

Check out Social Explorer’s map and report tools to find out more about same-sex couples and other groups.

Sydney Beveridge is the Media and Content Editor for Social Explorer, where she works on the blog, curriculum materials, how-to-videos, social media outreach, presentations and strategic planning. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A version of this article originally appeared on the Social Explorer blog.

Social Explorer is an online research tool designed to provide quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to better illustrate, analyze and understand demography and social change. From research libraries to classrooms to the front page of the New York Times, Social Explorer is helping people engage with society and science.

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Image credit: Rainbow flag from Wikimedia Commons.

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