Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let the maps begin! Williams Institute releases first data from Census 2010

Long before I met the incomparable Gary Gates, I admired his work. While at the Urban Institute, Gates co-authored The Gay and Lesbian Atlas, a book with color-coded maps, by state and county, of the numbers of same-sex couples in the entire United States. It is the book that proved the old adage that "we are everywhere." Literally. The data in Atlas came from the 2000 Census. It was quite a revelation that we could learn so much from that source.

Well, Gary Gates is now at the (also incomparable) Williams Institute at UCLA, and today he released the first state maps (again color-coded) with data from Census 2010. Turns out there are 11,259 same-sex couples in Alabama, 27% of whom are raising children. There are 4,248 same-sex couples in Hawaii, 23% of whom are raising children.

Gates has also prepared an explanation of his methodology. The FAQ's are here, with a link to a longer and more technical brief. Next week, Williams will release reports on California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Census data by state will be released weekly over the course of the summer.

I've had the pleasure of seeing the glee on Gary Gates's face as data about LGBT people come across his computer screen. How lucky for the rest of us that he can tell us so much about ourselves. Yes, it is very limited. Most especially by the fact that the census counts only same-sex couples, and only couples who live together. There are some data sets that ask directly about sexual orientation, but not the census. Still, no other data set can give us maps like this.

Lucky for me that I will be at UCLA beginning in the middle of July, as the Visiting McDonald/Wright Chair in Law and Faculty Chair of the Williams Institute. That means many chances to see Gary's glee in person!

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