Abstract Much recent research on sexual minorities has used couples-based samples, which—by construction—provide no information on nonpartnered individuals. We present the first systematic empirical analysis of partnership and cohabitation among self-identified gay men and lesbians using two independent, large, population-wwbased data sources from California. Unlike previous research, we find that white and highly educated gay men and lesbians are more likely to be partnered, and we confirm that same-sex cohabiting partners in our data have demographic characteristics that are similar to California same-sex couples from Census We also present the first detailed analysis of officially registered domestic partnerships in California.
We find that almost half of partnered lesbians are officially registered with the local or state government, while less than a quarter of partnered gay men are officially registered.
We conclude with implications of our findings for couples-based research on gay men and lesbians, as well as recommendations for survey data collection. The availability of new social science data that allow credible identification of sexual minorities has noticeably increased social science research focusing on gay men and lesbians over the last decade.
Perhaps the most widely cited data source used to explore demographic characteristics of the gay and lesbian population is the U. Moreover, a consistent limitation of couples-based research has been its inability to determine how generalizable any results are to the overall gay and lesbian population, since this question turns explicitly on the degree to which partnered sexual minorities differ from nonpartnered sexual minorities.
As Black et al. Our study, in contrast, focuses exclusively on the prevalence of gay and lesbian partnership and cohabitation. Although there is a large and extensive literature on partnership and cohabitation among heterosexual individuals, there is comparatively little research on partnership among gay men and lesbians see Seltzer and Smock for reviews of partnership among heterosexuals.
Both are large, independent, population-based telephone surveys that are representative of the state of California. Our data are distinguished from both the census and the GSS in that both the Tobacco Survey and the CHIS contain individual-level information on partnership status and direct measures of sexual orientation for all respondents.
This allows us to estimate the fractions of gay and lesbian individuals that are partnered and to examine individual demographic correlates of partnership. Our data also contain samples of sexual minorities that are 1. In addition to providing detailed evidence on nonpartnered individuals, we offer several other major contributions relative to existing work by Black et al. First, we use a more direct and meaningful measure of sexual orientation—adult self-reports—than has been used in previous work.
Such an approach using behavior to proxy for orientation necessarily excludes sexual abstainers and incorrectly codes individuals with discordant behavior and orientation.
We believe that self-reported sexual orientation— which, as is well-known, is not always concordant with sexual behavior Laumann et al. This is because the gay men and lesbians who would avail themselves of domestic partner benefits from the government or an employer are probably those who would self-identify as gay or lesbian. Second, we observe much more direct information on partnership than in previous research. Our definition of partnership relies on direct responses to specific questions about living with an unmarried partner in the CHIS or cohabiting with a primary romantic partner in the Tobacco Survey.
The Tobacco Survey data also provide detailed information on the nature of the partnership: Third, we present the first estimates of the fraction of gay and lesbian partnerships that are officially registered with the local or state government, as well as the correlates of being officially registered.
The prevalence of official registrations in our data is highly relevant for current policy debates: Finally, we are able to address data quality concerns by comparing the demographic characteristics of gay men and lesbians in partnerships from the CHIS and Tobacco Survey data to the characteristics of same-sex couples in California from Census First, what fraction of self-identified gay men and lesbians are in a cohabiting partnership? Second, how do the demographic characteristics of partnered lesbians and gay men differ from those of their nonpartnered counterparts?
Fourth, what fractions of gay and lesbian cohabiting partnerships are officially registered with the local or state government? And finally, how do the demographic characteristics of those in registered partnerships differ from those not in registered partnerships and in other relationship states?
To answer these questions we present detailed descriptive statistics on characteristics such as age, race, education, income, and the presence of children from three main data sources: The CHIS uses a multistage sampling design in which a random adult is selected within each household using random-digit dialing RDD methods. When weighted, the sample is representative of the noninstitutionalized population of California. Respondents also provide individual information on a variety of health conditions, health behaviors, and demographic characteristics.
Are you gay [lesbian] or bisexual? Our approach for identifying partnership among the sample of gay men and lesbians in CHIS has a few drawbacks. Most importantly, we identify partnership on the basis of a question about marital status, and respondents are forced to choose among several categories that need not be mutually exclusive.
Another potential problem with our measure is that we do not actually observe the overall sex composition of the household. This source of error is likely trivial. In the Tobacco Survey, we find only a single observation of a self-identified lesbian or gay man who reports living with a partner of a different sex. The Tobacco Survey is a sample of self-identified sexual minorities and individuals reporting same-sex sexual behavior.
This component of the sampling strategy must be kept in mind in the context of our partnership estimates because it is possible that the geographic distribution of sexual minorities varies according to partnership status, and the census identifies only partnered gay men and lesbians.
If this is the case, then these data may overstate the proportion of lesbians and gay men who are partnered because the sampling strategy might be biased toward geographic areas where there are more same-sex couples.
All households were first screened using a question that asked whether the respondent was gay, lesbian, or bisexual or had a same-sex sexual experience since age Specifically, individuals were asked whether they had ever been legally married, as well as their current marital status. Unfortunately, these response options need not be mutually exclusive e. The Tobacco Survey, in contrast, asks about marital status and partnership separately.
First, the survey asks whether the respondent has ever been legally married. The Tobacco Survey, in contrast, allows respondents to indicate that they are both divorced and in a cohabiting partnership. Individuals with a current primary partner were then asked whether the partner is same-sex or opposite sex, as well as whether the individual is living with that primary partner. The census data, which we describe later, also require the presence of a same-sex unmarried partner living in the household for identification of gay and lesbian couples.
Individuals in the Tobacco Survey who reported living with a primary partner were also asked about the length of their cohabitation, as well as the length of the overall relationship, and all respondents were asked a battery of standard demographic questions such as race, age, income, education, and the presence of children in the household. Finally, respondents who reported living with a same-sex partner and who also reported not being currently married were asked whether their partnership was registered with the local or state government.
We use responses to this question to provide estimates of the prevalence of official domestic partner registrations in California, and we examine the relationship between observable demographic characteristics and domestic partner registration.
Finally, we complement our analyses of California statewide individual-level data with the more well-known Census data. We combine the two samples because they are independent draws from the long-form responses. The census does not ask any direct questions about sexual orientation or sexual behavior. These fall into two broad categories: Gates and Ost and Black et al. Given the to-1 ratio between married and unmarried partners in the census, even rare sex miscodes could significantly contaminate the same-sex couple sample with different-sex married couples.
We use the method advanced in Black et al. By restricting the sample to couples without any marital status allocations, we eliminate the group that is likely to be most prone to this error. The top row of each panel of Table 1 shows the estimated fraction of each relevant sample in a cohabiting partnership.