The spring 2009 legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa helped spur a 77 percent increase in such households in the state, according to U.S. Census data released today.
The 2010 Census counted 6,540 households headed by same-sex couples, up from 3,698 a decade earlier. The number of heterosexual married couples dropped by 8,081 — 1.3 percent — during the same period, to 625,173.
Because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages performed under state laws, responses indicating same-sex spouses are listed as “unmarried partner” in the report.
Children under 18 are members of 3,237 same-sex households.
There are 529 same-sex households in Linn County and 531 in Johnson County.
The same-sex household numbers are among the more notable in a data set eagerly awaited by demographers and other researchers.
“There’s nerds like myself who are just waiting 10 years for this,” said Richard Funderburg, assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.
The Census Bureau’s short-form data for Iowa, which became available at midnight, allows planners, marketers and statistics fans to focus detailed demographic information down to the block level.
“The most spatially fine data” is how Funderberg describes it.
The data isn’t just for academic researchers. People selling, say, home-improvement products can use it to decide that their marketing efforts are better spent in Marion, where 75.8 percent of homes are owner-occupied, than in Iowa City, where only 47 percent of homes are owned by their occupants.
“There’s an incredible amount of feeding that comes in on this information flow,” Funderburg said.
Amateurs can crunch their own numbers and build statistical maps at the Census’ American FactFinder website, http://factfinder2.census.gov. Over the past 20 years, online technology has put more raw data, and ways to use it, in the hands of the general public.
“It’s becoming more and more accessible every time they do it,” said Kevin Leicht, chairman of the UI’s Sociology Department and director of the Iowa Social Science Resource Center. “As late as the 1980s you would have to get reel-to-reel tapes and have a lot of computer knowledge to put it to use.”
Household data will allow agencies to focus resources on neighborhoods where it’s most needed, said Liesl Eathington, assistant scientist in economics and director of Iowa State University’s Regional Economics and Community Analysis Program.
“We’re going to be able to do a lot more fine-grained analysis of family structures,” she said. “Even though there are no income data in this release, we are interested in the numbers of children living with just one parent and other social indicators of poverty.”
Funderburg said school districts use the data to track where growing young families live, allowing them to plan future building needs.
“I take a look at changes in the age distribution at the neighborhood level, he said. “We would be able to see how certain neighborhoods are changing in terms of ethnicity and race.”