Interactive Map: Same-Sex and Unmarried Couples in NJ Towns

Same-sex couple households as a percentage of all unmarried couple households. For more information about households and families within a municipality, click on it.

Source: NJ Spotlight analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2010 5-year estimates

The U.S. Census Bureau reported yesterday that the number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled in the last 15 years, from 2.9 million in 1996 to 7.8 million nationwide this year.

In New Jersey, there were 11 percent more unmarried couples living together in 2010 than in 2000. About 11 percent of those were same-sex couples, according to the data.

Advocates of gay marriage in New Jersey have been buoyed by the success of ballot initiatives last week allowing same-sex nuptials in three states.

While the Legislature passed a marriage-equality bill earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. New Jersey lawmakers have chosen not to put the question on the ballot, which is what Maine, Maryland and Washington did this year.

For the purpose of being counted, many same-sex couples in New Jersey already consider themselves married.

The Census’ 2010 estimates based on five years of data showed 17,576 unmarried-couple households in the state were headed by either two men or two women.

But while the total number of unmarried-couple households rose over the prior decade, the number of same-sex couple households fell by about 4 percent. That’s a smaller drop than the 9 percent decline nationally in unmarried gay couples measured by the bureau.

What appears to be responsible for the drops is not a lower incidence of same-sex couples living together, but the way in which they classify themselves to Census officials.

Daphne Lofquist, of the bureau’s housing and households economic statistics division, wrote in a May 2012 report that about 20 percent of same-sex couples living in a state where they were not legally able to marry still told the annual American Community Survey that they were living with a husband or wife. The presence of children in the household also made it more likely a couple would report themselves as married.

“Unmarried partner couples who reported a child under the age of 18 years in their household had higher odds of reporting that they were married,” she wrote.

The ACS form, in asking how people are related to one another within a household, permits the answers “husband or wife” and “unmarried partner.” In New Jersey’s case and that of other states with a similar law, it does not cover civil unions.

In debating the issue of marriage equality earlier this year, New Jersey legislators said about 5,500 couples in the state had entered into civil unions.

The map shows the percentage of unmarried households that are same-sex couple households, according to Census data. To see those and other statistics about households, both married and unmarried, click on a municipality.