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Same-Sex Married Couples Have Higher Income Than Opposite-Sex Married Couples

Income and Poverty

Same-Sex Married Couples Have Higher Income Than Opposite-Sex Married Couples

Income and Poverty

Census Bureau Implements Improved Measurement of Same-Sex Couples

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Same-sex married couples have a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples but their poverty rates are not significantly different, according to 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) findings released today.

The ACS asks respondents their relationship to the householder (person who rents or owns a home and whose name is on the deed/lease). Until last year, respondents could only identify themselves as a spouse or an unmarried partner (sometimes referred to as cohabiting couple).

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Overall, same-sex married couples had a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples: $107,200 and $96,930, respectively.

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To improve the measurement of same-sex couples, the 2019 ACS separated each of these categories so respondents could specify whether these were opposite- or same-sex relationships. In this analysis, we only consider married couples that include the householder.

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Household Income and Poverty Rate Differences

In 2019, same-sex married couples accounted for just 1.0% of married-couple households in the United States.

This small share is partly due to fewer same-sex relationships overall, which are also low among unmarried partners (5.1%).

Lower marriage rates among same-sex households also contribute: 88% of opposite-sex- and 58% of same-sex-couple households were married.

Among same-sex married-couple households, 47% were male couples and 53% were female couples.

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How do household income and poverty status differ among these married couples?

  • Overall, same-sex married couples had a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples: $107,200 and $96,930, respectively.
  • Same-sex female married couples had a lower median household income than same-sex male married couples: $95,720 and $123,600, respectively.
  • Same-sex male married couples had a higher income than opposite-sex married couples but the difference in median household income between opposite-sex and female same-sex married couples was not statistically significant.
 

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As shown in Figure 2, poverty rates between opposite-sex and same-sex married-couple households in 2019 (4.2% and 3.9%, respectively) did not differ significantly. However, there were significant differences when same-sex married couple households were compared by gender:

  • Male same-sex married households had a lower poverty rate than opposite-sex married-couple households (2.7% and 4.2% respectively).
  • Female same-sex married-couple households had a higher poverty rate (5.0%) than both opposite-sex and male same-sex married-couple households.

The difference in poverty rates by gender may in part be due to differences in family structure, such as the presence of children in the household:

  • Some 38.0% of opposite-sex married-couple households had their own children under the age of 18 living with them.
  • Approximately 9.3% of male and 26.5% of female same-sex married-couple households had their children living with them.
 

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Age Groups

In 2019, 14% of same-sex married-couple households had a householder age 65 or older, compared to 25% of opposite-sex married couples.

As shown in Figure 3:

  • For both age categories, same-sex married couples had a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples.
  • Both male and female same-sex married couples had higher median household incomes than opposite-sex married couples with householders 65 and over.
  • Among householders ages 18 to 64, male same-sex married couples had a higher median income and female same-sex married couples had a lower median income than opposite-sex married couples.
 

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In Figure 4:

  • For married couples with a householder between ages 18 and 64, the poverty rate was lower for same-sex married-couple households than for opposite-sex married-couple households; the reverse was true for married couples with a householder age 65 and over.
  • For both age groups, the poverty rate for female same-sex married couples was higher than for male same-sex married couples.
 

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Geographic Comparisons

How do household income and poverty rates between opposite- and same-sex married couples compare at smaller geographic levels? Given the low number of same-sex married couples, we can best answer this question by looking at Census divisions.

As shown in Figure 5:

  • Median household income is higher for same-sex married couples than for opposite-sex married couples in the New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic and Pacific divisions.
  • In no case is median household income higher for opposite-sex married couples than for same-sex married couples.
  • There is no significant difference in median household income across same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the other divisions.
 

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Figure 6 shows the difference in poverty rates for opposite-sex and same-sex married-couple households.  The poverty rate for same-sex married-couple households is:

  • Higher than the poverty rate for opposite-sex married-couple households in the West North Central and East South Central divisions.
  • Lower than opposite-sex married-couple households in the West South Central and the Pacific division.
  • Not statistically significantly different from opposite-sex married couple households in New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, East North Central, and Mountain divisions.
 

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The maps in Figures 5 and 6 appear to have disparate results.  However:

  • Poverty measures capture the low end of the income distribution, while trends at the median may vary.
  • We found similar patterns in a few divisions.
    • Median household income and poverty rates were not significantly different between opposite-sex and same-sex married couples in the East North Central and Mountain divisions.
    • Median household income was higher and poverty rates lower for same-sex married couples in the Pacific division.

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Brian Glassman is an economist in the Poverty Statistics Branch in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Social Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

 

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