WASHINGTON – The Census Bureau has lowered its estimate of same–sex–couple households in Arizona from 20,948 to 15,143 in 2010, part of a nationwide readjustment of the statistic released Tuesday.
The bureau also reduced its estimates for that category in 2000, from 12,332 couples in Arizona to 8,104, meaning that while the overall numbers were lower than first reported, the rate of growth over the past decade increased.
By both the old and the adjusted estimates, same–sex households still made up less than 1 percent of all Arizona households in both 2000 and 2010.
The Census said that it decided to adjust the figures after learning that thousands of men and women were mistakenly counted as members of the opposite sex in the 2010 and 2000 censuses, leading to inflated reports of same–sex households in the country.
The layout of a commonly used questionnaire led respondents to incorrectly identify their gender and “was not conducive to a consistent view of the question,” said Martin O’Connell, chief of the bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch.
Though the error rate was small, the Census said a small error in a large population can result in a large error in a small, related population – like same–sex households.
“There’s no dispute that the same–sex population increased between 2000 and 2010,” O’Connell said. “What we tried to do is get a better grip on exactly what the numbers were and … eliminate population numbers that seemed to be artificially high.”
The Census now estimates that there were about 358,000 same–sex households across the country in 2010, a 40 percent decline from previous estimates of nearly 600,000. But as in Arizona, the adjusted figures show a faster growth rate than the 52 percent previously estimated. The new numbers show same–sex–couple households growing 80 percent since 2000.
The Census errors affected both same–sex couples who were married and those who were not, but it had a disproportionate impact on married couples. While the overall estimate fell by 40 percent, estimates of married same–sex households fell by about two-thirds, to 2,265 same-sex spouses in Arizona and 131,729 in the United States in 2010.
The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative nonprofit group, said the adjusted figures of same–sex households prove that the population of homosexuals is “over–hyped and over–reported.”
“The number impacts public policy initiatives,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. “Public policy that caters to a same–sex agenda needs to be laid very carefully. We’re not dealing with a significant proportion of the population.”
She declined to comment on the higher rate of growth of same–sex households since 2000.
But Maxim Thorne, senior vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pointed to the new numbers as evidence that gay couples are becoming a part of society.
“It’s important for people to realize that it’s happening and it’s happening increasingly,” he said.
Thorne, whose gay aunt and her partner have lived in the Phoenix area for three decades, welcomed the new numbers as evidence that gays are gaining acceptance.
“Now that the Census has come out with these figures, Arizona and other states can’t deny the existence of couples like these women,” he said.
Max Levy is a reporter for Cronkite News Service