Magazine article The Futurist

Homosexuality and Family Formation: More-Accurate Counting of Same-Sex Parents May Improve Social Services

Magazine article The Futurist

Homosexuality and Family Formation: More-Accurate Counting of Same-Sex Parents May Improve Social Services

Article excerpt

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Census Bureau will count gay marriages in its 2010 surveys. By collecting and releasing data on same-sex partners, both married and unmarried, and on the numbers of children being raised in these households, the new census will enable researchers and policy makers to do more than extrapolate from existing data.

In previous rounds of census taking, the Bureau has classified married households as only consisting of opposite-sex couples, while unmarried households could consist of either opposite-sex or same-sex couples. Gay or lesbian partners, on the other hand, were either classified as unmarried, even if they declared themselves to be spouses, or erroneously recorded as opposite-sex spouses.


The Bureau has attempted to hypothetically correct its existing data using models such as those that reassigned respondents' gender based on their first names. The results increased the number of same-sex unmarried partners in the United States in 2000 from 0.6 million to an estimate ranging from 1.1 million to 1.6 million. This model does not correct the data on marital status of same-sex partners, however.

Without official, longitudinal data, it is difficult to track trends in gay / lesbian family formation or to quantify the impacts on children of these household types and of the policies affecting them. As states and voters increasingly weigh the pros and cons of gay marriage and other issues, these data will provide vital (and presumably politically neutral) information.

Heterosexual and homosexual-headed families stand to learn more of both their differences and their similarities in terms of life experiences and challenges in raising children.

Parenting by Homosexuals

Parenting may be as strong an urge in homosexual individuals as it is among heterosexuals, despite what may be counterintuitive from an evolutionary point of view. In a recent study of Samoa's fa'afafine (a unique gender classification for gay men), Canadian evolutionary psychologists Paul Vasey and Doug VanderLaan found a strong willingness for caretaking and teaching of nieces and nephews, offering the uncles a boost for their family lineage and a way to "earn their evolutionary keep."

The Western world has not been as supportive of gay males as nurturers as has the more-isolated and communitarian Samoa, but the urge to raise children appears to be especially strong among gay men in the United States. According to a 2007 study of adoption trends by the UCLA School of Law and the Urban Institute, more than 50% of gay men said they desired to be a parent, compared with 41% of lesbians surveyed. Yet, more than a third of lesbians had given birth, while just one in six gay men had fathered or adopted a child.

The study further noted that there may be significant social and economic costs of banning adoption or foster care by lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) parents. Same-sex couples and homosexual singles applying for adoption tend to be older, better educated, and have more economic resources than their heterosexual counterparts. The national cost of excluding this group of motivated and resourceful parents from foster care in the United States was estimated at $87 to $130 million. …

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