Gay and Lesbian Partnership: Evidence from Multiple Surveys

  • Christopher Carpenter UC Irvine
  • Gary Gates


A large social science literature documents partnership rates and correlates of partnership among heterosexual individuals. This paper presents the first systematic empirical analysis of partnership, cohabitation, and official “domestic partner” registrations among self-identified gay men and lesbians using four independent, large, population based data sources, mostly in California. The data indicate that 30-45 percent of gay men are in a cohabiting partnership, while about 50-60 percent of lesbians are partnered. Across the four samples, white and highly educated gay men and lesbians are more likely to be partnered. We also find that almost half of partnered lesbians report being registered officially with the government, while fewer than a quarter of partnered gay men are registered. Of partnered gay men and lesbians, those who officially registered report longer relationship durations and are more likely to have ever been legally married. Overall, our results advance the literature on the determinants of household formation and provide the first estimates of factors associated with being officially registered in a same-sex domestic partnership.


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