Similar Patterns of Racial Disparities Among Individuals in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples

Author: The Williams Institute
Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 - Updated: Tuesday 28th February 2017
Summary: Similar patterns of racial disparities in income and employment exist among individuals in same-sex and different-sex couples.


Among same-sex couples, African-American, Latino, American-Indian and Alaskan Native respondents have lower incomes, lower college completion rates and higher unemployment rates than White, Asian and Pacific Islander respondents.

Consistent with prior Institute research, the report also found that racial/ethnic minority individuals in same-sex couples tend to live in areas where there are higher proportions of individuals of their own race or ethnicity.

"The report suggests that public policies, such as neighborhood education and economic development, that are aimed to reduce racial/ethnic disparities make sense as a key part of LGBTQ public policy work," noted Wilson. The report found:

U.S. counties with highest proportion of same-sex couples
U.S. counties with highest proportion of same-sex couples
Differences did not always mean disparities between groups.

Some differences found may simply reflect social or contextual differences between types of couples and among various ethnic groups. For example, the report highlighted a combination of an adherence to racial/ethnic cultural norms regarding interracial dating patterns and a potential influence of an LGBTQ culture supportive of interracial relationships. On the one hand, individuals in same-sex couples were 2.2 times more likely to partner with individuals of another race/ethnicity compared to people in different-sex couples. However, like different-sex couples, Asian/Pacific Islander individuals in same-sex relationships are more likely to have interracial marriages/couplings, and White people are least likely.

Consistent with prior research, the report also found racial/ethnic minority individuals in same-sex couples are more likely to have kids compared to White individuals in same-sex couples. About 1 out of every 3 individuals in same-sex couples raising children are people of color. Trends among ethnic minorities in same-sex couples differ slightly from national trends in that African-Americans are more likely to have children compared to Latinos/as; actually, African-Americans in same-sex couples had a rate of raising children much closer to their different-sex counterparts than any other group.

All individuals in couples with children generally fare worse with regards to educational attainment, insurance coverage and median income. This is especially true for individuals in same-sex couples.

"These data further indicate the need for public policies that aim to support families with children in achieving educational and economic goals in ways that simultaneously support racial/ethnic and sexual orientation equity," said Wilson.

The study, "Race/Ethnicity, Gender and Socioeconomic Wellbeing of Individuals in Same-sex Couples," includes socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of Asian and Pacific Islander (API), Latino and Latina (Latino/a), African-American, American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN), and non-Hispanic White (White) individuals in same-sex couples in the U.S. It relies on data from the Gallup Daily tracking survey, the 2008-2010 American Community Survey, and U.S. Census 2010.


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