Same-sex households in Iowa are fewer than first reported

There are nearly 40 percent fewer households than initially reported

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CEDAR RAPIDS - There are nearly 40 percent fewer same-sex households in Iowa than initially reported by the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau has determined.

The Census’ new preferred estimate is 4,093 same-sex households in Iowa, down from the 6,540 reported in July. That’s a 10.6 percent increase over the 3,698 same-sex households reported in 2000 and not the 77 percent jump first reported.

Richard Funderburg, assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, called the revision “quite remarkable.”

“That’s quite a revision downward,” Funderburg said. “It’s a reminder that whenever we work with census data we’re working with estimates.”

Martin O’Connell, chief of the Census Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, said the problem was rooted in the design of forms used by Census enumerators making follow-up calls to homes whose residents didn’t complete or returned their mailed forms. The resulting “data collection error” created an over-count of same-sex households.

“Looking at that form was not conducive to a consistent view of those questions,” O’Connell said in a telephone press conference.

O’Connell emphasized the error rate was very small, but “those low error rates multiplied by a very large population base can produce large differences.”

O’Connell noted that even a remarkably low 1-in-1,000 error rate “would basically term 55,000 opposite-sex married couples into same-sex married couples.”

The national number for same-sex households dropped by a similar rate, to 646,464. New estimates won’t be released for counties, cities or smaller jurisdictions, O’Connell said.

Brad Jacklin, project director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the group’s members are happy to be counted for the first time. Previously, same-sex households were estimated from responses to the Census’ “unmarried partner” questions.

“The numbers aren’t as important as the stories of same-sex couples across the country,” said Jacklin, adding the data collection problem is “really an indication of the need for the federal government to do a better job in the collection of data.”

“We’re not questioning it,” Jacklin said of the revised numbers announced Tuesday. “These are things the government does internally because of the need to be impartial. We’re not aware of the process, but we do trust them.”

To view the full census report, click here.


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