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New Tables Show Differences in Labor Force, Employment for People in Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Marriages

Brian Mendez-Smith

People in same-sex marriages were more likely to be in the labor force than those in opposite-sex marriages, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data released earlier this month.

Women in same-sex marriages in particular were more likely to be in the labor force than their opposite-sex counterparts.

People in same-sex marriages were more likely to work full-time and year-round than their opposite-sex counterparts.

Employment and labor force characteristics among householders and spouses in same-sex married households differed in key ways from those of their opposite-sex married peers and varied across states and metropolitan areas.

These findings come from new tables  using 1-year data from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS improved its measure of same-sex couple households by explicitly asking if couples were same- or opposite-sex spouses or partners.  

These new tables contain estimates of selected employment and labor force characteristics for householders and spouses ages 16 to 64 in civilian same- and opposite-sex married households.

Estimates are available for the nation, states and the District of Columbia, and for 15 selected metropolitan areas. At the national level, estimates are available by sex, race and Hispanic origin.

Same-Sex vs. Opposite-Sex Married in the Labor Force

In 2019, people in same-sex married couples had a labor force participation rate of 84.6% nationally, significantly higher than the 80.4% labor force participation rate of those in opposite-sex married couples.

However, this comparison masks differing patterns by sex.

More specifically, 83.2% of same-sex married women participated in the labor force, significantly higher than the 71.4% of opposite-sex married women.  

These differences persisted within all racial and ethnic groups examined. One striking example was the difference among Hispanic women. Hispanic same-sex married women had an 84.0% labor force participation rate, in stark contrast to the 63.6% labor force participation rate of Hispanic opposite-sex married women.

The reverse was true for men. The labor participation rate was 86.2% for same-sex married men and 90.0% for their opposite-sex married peers.

Same-Sex Married Men More Likely to be Unemployed

Nationally, householders and spouses in same-sex married households had an unemployment rate of 2.9% in 2019, statistically higher than the 2.2% unemployment rate of those in opposite-sex marriages.

Men drove this rate overall: Same-sex married men had an unemployment rate of 3.1%, compared to 1.9% of opposite-sex married men.

The unemployment rates for same- and opposite-sex married women were not statistically different.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time

People in same-sex marriages were more likely to work full-time and year-round than their opposite-sex counterparts.

In 2019, 74.1% of married householders and spouses in same-sex households had worked full-time in the past year compared to 69.7% of those in opposite-sex marriages.

In addition, 73.8% of those in same-sex married couples had worked year-round in the past year, which exceeded the 70.7% of their opposite-sex peers.

Employment Differences in States, Metros

In 2019, some states and metro areas differed from the nation’s employment characteristics among people in same-sex marriages. Among these states, Oklahoma (93.3%), Connecticut (92.6%) and Massachusetts (90.9%) had higher labor force participation rates among those in same-sex marriages than the nation as a whole, but were not statistically different from one another.

Three metro areas had higher rates than the nation overall for householders and spouses in same-sex married households in three measures: labor force participation, percentages who worked full-time in the last year and percentages who worked year-round in the last year.

  • Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH (92.4%, 80.9%, 81.4%).
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (90.3%, 83.0%, 80.6%).
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (89.9%, 79.7%, 78.9%).

Differences between metro areas were not statistically significant.

The new “Employment and Labor Force Characteristics for Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Married Householders and their Spouses: 2019” table package on the Labor Force Statistics page at census.gov provides more detailed labor force, employment, and work-status estimates for same- and opposite-sex married people.

 

Brian Mendez-Smith is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

 

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