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U.S. Census: Illinois shows big jump in reported same-sex couples
News update posted Aug. 4, 2011
by Joseph Erbentraut, Windy City Times
2011-08-10

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The statistics on same-sex couples in Illinois from the latest decennial census were unveiled Thursday and the count reveals a marked increase in the number of individuals who report that they live with a same-sex partner statewide.

Statewide, the 2010 census estimated that 32,469 gay and lesbian couples live in Illinois, which marks a 42 percent increase over the last decennial estimate in 2000. That increase was led principally by a 53 percent increase in the number of lesbian couple-led households ( 16,416, compared to 10,732 ) who now slightly outnumber the number of gay couple-led households who saw only a 32 percent increase ( 16,053 households, compared to 12,155 in 2010 ) .

NOTE: Please see related graphs from the Williams Institute at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/Census2010Snapshot_IL.pdf

The numbers also reveal that a large number of same-sex couples in Illinois have started their own families and are raising children, including 17 percent of self-reporting gay couples ( 2,723 ) and 29 percent of self-reporting lesbian couples ( 4,783 ) . All told, 7,506 same-sex couples in Illinois are estimated to be raising children under the age of 18 -- or 23 percent of the total population. The 2010 estimate of the number of same-sex couples raising children is relatively comparable to the 2000.

Gary Gates, a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA law school, specializes in queer demography utilizing census data and said a number of factors are at play in the increased number of self-reporting same-sex couples over the last decade in Illinois, as well as the other 29 states ( plus Puerto Rico ) for which data has thus far been rolled out by the U.S. Census Bureau since June.

First, Gates notes, he said coupled, cohabitating gay and lesbian couples are likely more willing to accurately report their relationship status on the census and said it was also possible that broader social acceptance has "created conditions where more gay and lesbian people couple off and perhaps come out."

That said, he admitted some of the increase also had a lot to do with a heightened grassroots outreach campaign, on the bureau's part, which encouraged queer couples to accurately report about their lives.

At the county level, though Cook County still far and away leads the pack in terms of the number of same-sex couples overall ( 17,077 ) , it now calls home to a markedly smaller percentage of the state's total ( 53 percent according to the 2010 estimate, compared to 58 percent in 2000 ) . When Cook County's total is added to the five counties that border it ( DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Will ) , 71 percent of the state's same-sex couples are represented. In 2000, the same six counties were home to 75 percent of the state total.

Cook County, too, also saw among the lowest increases in the estimated number of same-sex couples of any county in the state between 2000 and 2010. While Cook's 17,077 self-reporting couples mark a 29 percent increase over 2000, several other counties saw much more drastic increases over the last decade including Williamson ( 135 percent ) , Lake ( 94 percent ) and McHenry ( 82 percent ) , to name a few examples.

Fewer gay couples ( only 13 percent ) in Cook County are raising children as compared to the state average, while the portion of lesbian couples in the county doing so ( 29 percent ) roughly matches the state average.

Of course, it should be noted that the census data excludes many individuals within the LGBT community, including those who are not in any sort of marriage, civil union or unmarried partnership, in addition to those couples who do not live togethers. The measure also likely excludes large segments of the bisexual and transgender communities in addition to single queer men and women.

More analysis of what the Illinois census data tells us about where in the state LGBT people live is forthcoming, in addition to an analysis of where, within the city of Chicago, large segments of the community can be found.


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