The present study investigates the demographics of same-sex marriages—that is, registered partnerships—in Norway and Sweden. We give an overview of the demographic characteristics of the spouses of these partnerships, study patterns of their divorce risks, and compare the dynamics of same-sex couples with those of heterosexual marriages. We use longitudinal information from the population registers of the two countries that cover all persons in partnerships. Our demographic analyses include information on characteristics such as age, sex, geographic background, experience of previous opposite-sex marriage, parenthood, and educational attainment of the partners involved. The results show that in many respects, the distributions of married populations on these characteristics differ by the sex composition of the couples. Patterns in divorce risks are rather similar in same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, but divorce-risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages. The divorce risk for female partnerships is double that for male partnerships.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Similar content being viewed by others
Agell, A. 1998. “Alternative Legal Policies: A Comparative View From a Swedish Observer.” Pp. 31–38 in Living Arrangements and Family Structures—Facts and Norms, edited by L. Vaskovics and H. Schattovits. Vienna: Austrian Institute for Family Studies.
Amato, P. and S. Rogers. 1997. “A Longitudinal Study of Marital Problems and Subsequent Divorce.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59:612–24.
Andersson, G. 2002. “Dissolution of Unions in Europe: A Comparative Overview.” Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft 27:493–504. Also available as MPIDR Working Paper 2003-004. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
Badgett, M.V.L. 1997. “Beyond Biased Samples: Challenging the Myths on the Economic Status of Lesbians and Gay Men.” Pp. 65–71 in Homo Economics: Capitalism, Community, and Lesbian and Gay Life, edited by A. Gluckman and B. Reed. New York: Routledge.
—. 2001. Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Badgett, M.V.L. and M. Rogers. 2003. “Left Out of the Count: Missing Same-Sex Couples in Census 2000.” IGLSS by the Numbers. Amherst, MA: Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies. Available online at http://www.iglss.org/media/files/c2k_leftout.pdf
Baughman, R., S. Dickert-Conlin, and S. Houser. 2002. “How Well Can We Track Cohabitation Using the SIPP? A Consideration of Direct and Indirect Measures.” Demography 39:455–65.
Beck, U. and E. Beck-Gernsheim. 1995. The Normal Chaos of Love. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.
Black, D., G. Gates, S. Sanders, and L. Taylor. 2000. “Demographics of the Gay and Lesbian Population in the United States: Evidence From Available Systematic Data Sources.” Demography 37:139–54.
Black, D., S. Makar, S. Sanders, and L. Taylor. 2003. “The Earnings Effects of Sexual Orientation.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 56:449–69.
Brinig, M. and D. Allen. 2000. “These Boots are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women.” American Law and Economics Review 2:126–69.
Clarke, L. and A. Berrington. 1999. “Socio-demographic Predictors of Divorce.” Pp. 1–37 in High Divorce Rates: The State of the Evidence on Reasons and Remedies, edited by J. Simons. London: Lord Chancellor’s Department.
Digoix, M., P. Festy, and K. Waaldijk. 2004. “Same-Sex Couples and Heteronormativity.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Boston, April 1–3.
Eggen, B. 2002. “Gleichgeschlechtliche Lebensgemeinschaften: Erste Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung im Rahmen des Mikrozensus” [Same-sex unions: The first results of a study based on the Mikrozensus]. Pp. 215–34 in Elternschaft heute, edited by N. Schneider and H. Matthias-Bleck. Opladen: Leske and Budrich.
England, P., L. Sayer, and P. Allison. 2005. “He Left, She Left: Gains to Marriage, Relative Resources, and Divorce Initiation.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Philadelphia, March 31–April 2.
Giddens, A. 1992. The Transformation of Intimacy. Oxford: Polity Press.
Hamilton, C. and A. Perry. 2002. Family Law in Europe, 2nd ed. London: Butterworths LexisNexis.
Hoem, J.M. 1993. “Event-History Analysis in Demography. Classical Demographic Methods of Analysis and Modern Event-History Techniques.” Pp. 281–91 in IUSSP: 22nd International Population Conference, Montreal, 1993, Vol. 3. Liege, Belgium: International Study of Population.
Hoem, J.M., A. Aassve, G. Andersson, P. Baizán, F. Billari, H. Engelhardt, A. Fürnkrantz-Prskawetz, K. Hank, J. Huinink, H.-P. Kohler, A. Kohlmann, M. Kreyenfeld, G. Neyer, and A. Vikat. 2000. “Concepts for a Second Round of Fertility and Family Surveys in Europe With Particular Attention Paid to Persons of Reproductive/Working Age.” Pp. 59–104 in Generations and Gender Programme: Exploring Future Research and Data Collection Options, edited by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/United Nations Population Fund. Geneva: United Nations.
Jalovaara, M. 2002. “Socioeconomic Differentials in Divorce Risk by Duration of Marriage.” Demographic Research. Available online at http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol7/16/
— 2003. “The Joint Effects of Marriage Partners’ Socioeconomic Positions on the Risk of Divorce.” Demography 40:67–81.
Jepsen, L. and C. Jepsen. 2002. “An Empirical Analysis of the Matching Patterns of Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Couples.” Demography 39:435–53.
Kalmijn, M. and A.-R. Poortman. 2003. “His or Her Divorce? A Study of Divorce Determinants Using Information on Who Initiated the Divorce.” Paper presented to the Second Conference of the European Research Network on Divorce, November 13–14, Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Kurdek, L. 1992. “Relationship Stability and Relationship Satisfaction in Cohabiting Gay and Lesbian Couples: A Prospective Longitudinal Test of the Contextual and Interdependence Models.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 9:125–42.
— 1995. “Lesbian and Gay Couples.” Pp. 243–61 in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Identities Over the Lifespan: Psychological Perspectives, edited by A. D’Augelli and C. Patterson. New York: Oxford University Press.
— 2003. “Differences Between Gay and Lesbian Cohabiting Couples.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 20:411–36.
— 2004. “Are Gay and Lesbian Cohabiting Couples Really Different From Heterosexual Married Couples?” Journal of Marriage and Family 66:880–900.
Lauman, E., J.M. Gagnon, R.T. Michael, and S. Michaels. 1994. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Liu, G. and A. Vikat. 2004. “Does Divorce Risk Depend on Spouses’ Relative Income? A Register-Based Study of First Marriages in Sweden in 1981–1998.” MPIDR Working Paper 2004-010. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
Martin, C. and I. Théry. 2001. “The PACS and Marriage and Cohabitation in France.” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 15:135–58.
Moxnes, K. 1993. “Partnerskapsloven—et uttrykk for parforholdets endrede karakter” [The partnership law: An expression of the changing character of couple relations]. Løvetann 3:30–31.
Nielsen, L. 1990. “Family Rights and the ‘Registered Partnership’ in Denmark.” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 4:297–307.
Noack, T. 2000. “Registrerte partnerskap: 1993–1998” [Registered partnerships: 1993–1998]. Samfunnsspeilet 3:24–29.
Noack, T., H. Fekjær, and A. Seierstad. 2002. ”Skilsmisser blant lesbiske og homofile partnere—hvem er mest stabile?” [Divorces among lesbian and gay partners: Who are most stable?]. Samfunnsspeilet 3/2002:19–-27.
Noack, T., A. Seierstad, and H. Weedon-Fekjær. 2005. “A Demographic Analysis of Registered Partnerships (Legal Same-Sex Unions): The Case of Norway.” European Journal of Population 21:89–109.
Patterson, C. 2000. “Family Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62:1052–69.
Pedersen, W. and H.W. Kristiansen. 2003. “Å gjøre det, å føle det og å være det. Homoseksualitet i det seinmoderne” [To do it, to feel it, and to be it. Homosexuality in postmodernity]. Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning 44:3–37.
Phua, V.C. and G. Kaufman. 1999. “Using the Census to Profile Same-Sex Cohabitation: A Research Note.” Population Research and Policy Review 18:373–86.
Plug, E. and P. Berkhout. 2004. “Effects of Sexual Preferences on Earnings in the Netherlands.” Journal of Population Economics 17:117–31.
Røed, K. and O. Raaum. 2003. “Administrative Registers—Unexplored Reservoirs of Scientific Knowledge?” The Economic Journal 113:258–81.
Rydström, J. 2004. “From Outlaw to In-law: On Registered Partnership for Homosexuals in Scandinavia, Its History and Cultural Implications.” Paper presented to the conference “Same-Sex Couples, Same-Sex Partnerships and Homosexual Marriages: A Focus on Cross-National Differentials,” September 25–26, Stockholm. Conference Proceedings available as Documents de travail 124, 2004. Paris: INED.
Sayer, L. and S. Bianchi. 2000. “Women’s Economic Independence and the Probability of Divorce: A Review and Reexamination.” Journal of Family Issues 21:906–43.
SCB. 2003. “Access to Microdata in the Nordic Countries.” Report. Statistics Sweden, Stockholm. Available online at http://www.micro2122.scb.se/Access_to_microdata_in_the_Nordic_countries. pdf
Simmons, T. and M. O’Connell. 2003. “Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000.” Census 2000 Special Report. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC.
Søland, B. 1998. “A Queer Nation? The Passage of the Gay and Lesbian Partnership Legislation in Denmark, 1989.” Social Politics 5(1):48–69.
Waaldijk, K. 2001. “Small Change: How the Road to Same-Sex Marriage Got Paved in The Netherlands.” Pp. 437–64 in Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Partnerships: A Study of National, European and International Law, edited by R. Wintemute and M. Andenæs. Oxford: Hart Publishing.
— 2005. “More or Less Together: Levels of Legal Consequences of Marriage, Cohabitation and Registered Partnership for Different-Sex and Same-Sex Partners.” Documents de travail 125, 2005. Paris: INED.
An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Boston. The study is a joint work of the four coauthors. Our project was initiated by Turid Noack. Gunnar Andersson has contributed to the article with the analyses of the Swedish data, while the Norwegian analyses were performed by Turid Noack, Ane Seierstad, and Harald Weedon-Fekjær. We are grateful to Karin Wahlbin of Statistics Sweden for having prepared the individual-partnership data on Sweden. In addition, we extend our gratitude to Lee Badgett, Patrick Festy, Gayle Kaufman, Gerda Neyer, and Jens Rydström for their valuable comments. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers and the editorial staff of Demography for their very helpful comments.
About this article
Cite this article
Andersson, G., Noack, T., Seierstad, A. et al. The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden. Demography 43, 79–98 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2006.0001