Saturday, June 20, 2009

More alike than different.

The U.S. Census Bureau has been collecting data for years on all couples in the United States. But much of the data was never consolidated into any meaningful statistics, especially when it related to same-sex couples. The previous administration was hostile to the release of such information and preferred to follow the ostrich head-in-the-sand strategy: if we ignore them they don’t exist.

Now Martin O’Connell, chief of the Census Bureaus Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, said they decided to look at the raw data and see what it said. Same-sex couples basically had three options with the forms. Some ignored “legal” terminology and described themselves as “married” even if the law did not recognize them as such. Others checked the categories for unmarried and partners. And others simply checked neither and appear to be two individuals who just share an abode. Because of this the actual number of same-sex couples is probably skewed low.

What the Bureau found was that there are 55,967,091 male-female, married couples. There are 190,004 male couples who define themselves as married and 150,844 female couples who do the same, for a total of 340,848 gay couples who define themselves as married. Another 205,568 male couples say they are “partners” and 208,202 female couples say the same. That is another 413,770 same-sex couples who self-identified as such, given us a total of 754,618 self-identified gay couples in the country with obviously a large, but unknown, number of couples who did not self-identify at all.

The average age of a member of a male-female couple was 50. Among married male couples it was 52; 50 among female married couples; 44 for unmarried male partners; and 43 for unmarried female partners. The unmarried same-sex couples had the highest rates for both partners being employed: 69% for men and 68% for women. Only 50% of heterosexual married couples had both spouses employed. Among gay couples it was 47% for males and 52% for females.

When asked if both partners had a bachelor’s degree it turns out that among straight married couples it was 21%; 21% among male married couples; 24% among female married couples; 32% among male partnered couples; and 35% among female partnered couples.

Income statistics are equally as interesting. The average household income for straight married couples was $91,484. For male married couples it was $96,092, for lesbian married couples it was $93,044; for lesbian, unmarried couples it was $96,325 and for unmarried male couples it was $124,054. Thirty percent of married straight couples had incomes over $100,00 while 32% of married, male couples did; 38% of female married couples, 37% of female, partnered couples and 46% of male, partnered couples.

Home ownership rates are almost identical among all married couples. It is 84% for straight couples, 84% for male, married couples and 83% for female, married couples. For non-married male couples it is 71% and 70% for female, non-married couples.

When it comes to couples raising children there were some surprising statistics. Forty-three percent of heterosexual married couples were raising children. For lesbian married couples it wasn’t far behind, with 38% raising children. And 32% of male, married couples were also raising children. For couples, who did not describe themselves as married, the rate was much lower: 8% for male couples and 20% for female couples.

I think this cuts across some of the views of both the radical Left and the extreme Right. The figures for employment, home-ownership and income levels indicate rather strongly that any widespread discrimination in the employment market simply isn’t there. I would argue that markets tend not to discriminate especially if they are open to competition. Historically it has been those professions or industries, which had heavy government, control that tended to discriminate most against minorities. The more unregulated and free the market the less likely it is to practice widespread, consistent discrimination. Most discrimination suffered by gay people is government induced not in the private sector.

In a lecture, one far Right "economist" not worth naming, made some very stupid remarks where he contended that “homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals” and that they had a “spend it now” mentality.

He compared the actions of married couples with children to single, unmarried gay people. This sort of specious comparison is obviously flawed since one is not comparing homosexuals to heterosexuals at all but married individuals with children to single, childless individuals. That automatically skews the sample.

A fair comparison, which I doubt interested this man, who is known for his antigay sentiments, would have compared straight married couples with children to gay married couples with children. Since home ownership is a strong indication of “planning for the future” it is interesting to see NO differences between the home ownership rates of married gay couples with those of married, straight couples.

The data the Census people released would have been more interesting if they also include unmarried straight couples as well. But, from what was released here, we are seeing that gay couples don’t tend to be that different than straight couples, at least when we compare “married” couples to one another. Their employment levels were almost the same, with same-sex couples slightly ahead; their average ages were almost the same; their level of education was almost the same; their homeownership rates were almost the same.

It appears that "marriage" tends to make people very similar in their stability and economic performance. Conservatives have argued this for many years. But I have to wonder why they thought the same wasn't true for gay couples. Yet, the data seems to indicate it is.