, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 573-590

Gay and lesbian partnership: Evidence from California

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Much recent research on sexual minorities has used couples-based samples, which—by construction—provide no information on nonpartnered individuals. We present the first systematic empirical analysis of partnership and cohabitation among self-identified gay men and lesbians using two independent, large, population-wwbased data sources from California. These data indicate that 37%–46% of gay men and 51%–62% of lesbians aged 18–59 are in cohabiting partnerships (compared with 62% of heterosexual individuals in coresidential unions at comparable ages). Unlike previous research, we find that white and highly educated gay men and lesbians are more likely to be partnered, and we confirm that same-sex cohabiting partners in our data have demographic characteristics that are similar to California same-sex couples from Census 2000. We also present the first detailed analysis of officially registered domestic partnerships in California. We find that almost half of partnered lesbians are officially registered with the local or state government, while less than a quarter of partnered gay men are officially registered. We conclude with implications of our findings for couples-based research on gay men and lesbians, as well as recommendations for survey data collection.

We thank the editors, multiple anonymous referees, Dan Black, and seminar participants at the JSM meetings in Toronto for helpful comments. We also thank Larry Bye and the UCLA Data Access Center for data assistance. We thank the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies and the Williams Institute for providing support from a Ford Foundation grant. Gates gratefully acknowledges financial support from the California Center for Population Research (NICHD Grant R24HD41022) and NICHD Grant R03HD046560. Carpenter acknowledges generous support from the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine and a UC Irvine Committee on Research Award. All opinions expressed are those of the authors only.