Five U.S. Metro Areas Contain 1/4 of All Same-Sex Households, According to NGLTF Analysis of 2000 Census Data

October 09, 2002

Rural States Experience Explosive Growth In Same-Sex Couples' Reporting

New York - More than one quarter of the same-sex households identified on the 2000 Census are concentrated in five major metropolitan areas, while several smaller cities have the highest densities of same-sex households, according to a report released today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) Policy Institute. The report, The 2000 Census and Same-Sex Households: A User's Guide, explains how activists and policy makers can access data on 600,000 same-sex households to better understand the demographics and policy issues facing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) families.

According to the report, New York City has the largest share, or 8.9 percent, of all same-sex households, followed by Los Angeles with 6.6 percent, San Francisco with 4.9 percent, Washington, DC with 3.3 percent and Chicago with 3.1 percent.

With regard to concentration of same-sex households as a proportion of all households in a metropolitan area, San Francisco has the highest concentration, followed by Santa Fe, NM, Portland, ME, and Burlington, VT. Seattle, WA, Miami, FL, and Austin, TX ranked fifth among all households reporting same-sex cohabiting couples.

The report, authored by Judith Bradford, Ph.D., Kirsten Barrett, Ph.D. and Julie A. Honnold, Ph.D., was co-published by the Survey Evaluation and Research Laboratory (SERL) at Virginia Commonwealth University, and The Fenway Institute in Boston.

"This report provides a critical snapshot of same-sex couples -- who we are, and where we live," said Lorri L. Jean, NGLTF Executive Director. "Proof that GLBT families live in every single Congressional district in the nation marks a new day in working with elected officials. Never again will any elected official be able to claim that he or she needn't be concerned with the rights of GLBT people because 'I don't have any of them in my district.' With same-sex couples reporting in more than 99 percent of all counties in the United States, the 2000 Census forever disproves this claim." Only 22 counties across the country were without at least one same-sex household reported.

In 2000, for the second time ever, the U.S. Census gave unmarried cohabiting couples — straight, gay or bisexual — the opportunity to be counted. In preparation for the 2000 Census, the Task Force joined forces with the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies to mount a campaign that urged gay and lesbian couples to "Make Your Family Count!" That campaign helped dramatically increase the number of self-identifying same-sex households in the U.S. Census, from under 150,000 in 1990 to approximately 600,000 in 2000. Although the data set only counts a small minority of the GLBT population in the U.S., it nevertheless represents the largest single data set of GLBT people in the country, accounting for roughly 1.2 million people.

In addition to the dramatic increase in the number of those self-identifying since 1990, The 2000 Census and Same-Sex Households highlights regional concentrations of same-sex couples through state and city maps comparing the number of households reporting in 1990 and 2000.

The report also found that many rural states experienced remarkable increases in the numbers of same-sex couples self-reporting. Wyoming recorded the largest proportional increase of same-sex couples reporting, from just 30 in 1990 to more than 800 in 2000, representing a 2,590 percent increase. South Dakota was next with a 1,657 percent increase in couples reporting, followed by Idaho with a 952 percent increase, West Virginia with an 850 percent increase, and Delaware with a 781 percent increase. Most states reported that the number of same-sex households doubled or tripled from 1990 to 2000.

"This report can serve as an invaluable tool to those advocating for greater protections and full equality for GLBT people and our families," according to Judith Bradford, Ph.D., director of SERL, co-director of The Fenway Institute, and one of the authors of the report. "The Census data will ultimately provide hard figures that we can use not only to document the existence of our families, but also to demonstrate the great diversity of the GLBT community. Advocacy around a variety of issues will be bolstered with these data that demonstrate the need for policies that recognize GLBT families."

For example:

  • The existence of large numbers of same-sex couples with a member over 65 helps illustrate the cost of Social Security's lack of recognition of same-sex partners for spousal and survivor benefits.

  • The large proportion of individuals in same-sex relationships who have been in a previously heterosexual marriage speaks to the potential repercussions of conservatives' push to create barriers to divorce.

  • The significant numbers of same-sex couples with children can be used to quantify the potential impact of anti-gay parenting laws, as well as laws prohibiting recognition of the marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships of same-sex couples.

As more data from the 2000 Census are released later this year and in 2003, NGLTF, SERL and The Fenway Institute will conduct further analysis of this subset of GLBT households, exploring issues of race/ethnicity, disability, caregiving practices, education, occupation, income, languages spoken, citizenship, and military service.


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.