An analysis released on Jan. 20 by the Hamilton Project of the D.C.-based Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy research organization, takes a closer look at recent U.S. Census data showing that same-gender male couples have the nation’s highest median family income among three types of couples.
The authors of a five-page report by the Hamilton Project point to U.S. Census Bureau data showing that same-gender female couples had the lowest median family incomes, even though they were more likely than opposite-gender couples to have two income earners, have higher education, and live in a densely populated area, which the study says are characteristics associated with higher incomes.
The report includes an analysis of data released in September 2020 by the U.S. Census Bureau of its 2019 American Community Survey that focused on same-gender couples.
“This release marks the first time researchers could look at federally collected nationally representative estimates of the number of same-gender relationship households in a post-Windsor world, where same-gender marriage is legalized in all states,” the report says.
It was referring to the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as U.S. v. Windsor, which overturned as unconstitutional a provision of the anti-gay U.S. Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Two years later, the Supreme Court handed down its historic 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.
“Since making information on same-gender households available, the Census Bureau has released multiple reports providing demographic data on same-gender married couples,” the Hamilton-Brookings report says. “They find that on average, same-gender married couples have higher median household incomes and higher rates of dual employment than opposite-gender couples,” it says.
“We extend the Census Bureau’s analysis with the following differences. We separate same-gender families into those with two male and two female partners, as we would expect their labor market experiences and incomes to differ from each other and that of different-gender couples,” the report continues.
It says that when same-sex male and same-sex female couples are lumped together, the census data show they have a higher median income than opposite-gender couples.
“In the Census Bureau’s report, they found that, on average, the median household income of same-gender households is $107,200 compared to $97,000 for opposite-gender married couples,” the report says. But it says its own analysis shows that the median incomes of male and female same-gender couples “are quite different” from each other.
“Adult men in same-gender couples have the highest family incomes regardless of marriage status,” the report says. “On average, the family income for married men in same-gender relationships is 31 percent higher than married women in same-gender relationships, and 27 percent higher than opposite-gender married couples,” it says. It adds, “The income gap for men in unmarried partnerships is 36 percent higher than unmarried women in same-gender partnerships, and 38 percent higher than opposite-gender unmarried couples.”
The report doesn’t provide a direct reason why same-sex male couples have a higher income than same-sex female couples.
The report concludes by saying “there are limitations to our study,” among other things, because the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey whose data it uses does not ask questions about sexual orientation.
“We are not able to address other factors that impact income which we do not observe, including discrimination by gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the report states. It adds “those who identify as LGBTQ+ report experience of workplace discrimination which include being fired, passed over for employment opportunities, or experiencing harassment resulting from their sexual orientation.”
The full report, ‘Examining the Economic Status of Same-Gender Relationship Households,” can be accessed at the Brookings Institution site.