Boston – Six months from now, on April 1st, 2020, the federal census will be in full swing. The information collected in this every decade event is used to determine political representation by revising local precinct maps and Congressional districts based on changes in population. It determines the amount of federal funding for education, transportation, health care, housing, and social services. For minority populations such as the LGBTQ communities, basic information provided by the census related to population size and geography also contributes to community representation and support that might otherwise not exist.
Although the census does not have any questions related to sexual orientation or gender identity, it has been collecting information about same-sex households since 1990 when it added “unmarried partner” as one of the options for describing a household member’s relationship to the primary householder, which is the person who owns or rents the home. The dramatic increase in the numbers of same-sex couples counted by the 2000 census as compared with the 1990 census demonstrated the impact of public policy and political advancements that made it easier for LGBTQ people, especially those living in the South and the Midwest, to come out. In the 2020 census, “same-sex husband / wife / spouse” and “same-sex unmarried partner” have been added as relationship options, which will make it easier for same-sex couples to explicitly identify themselves and their relationship – and to be counted accurately.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of being counted. Analysis of the 2010 data showed that same-sex couples incur significant financial penalties as compared with heterosexual couples due to anti-LGBTQ laws at the local, state, and federal level. Data collected by the census document these economic disparities by demonstrating the similarities and differences between same- and different-sex couple households with regard to income and home ownership. In practice, these economic disparities mean that the children of LGBTQ parents are twice as likely to be living in poverty as the children of heterosexual parents, and just over 20% of LGBTQ people live in poverty as compared with four percent of the general population. Undercounts on the census deprive already vulnerable communities of democratic representation and federal funding. This is why we urge everyone in the LGBTQ community to participate in the census next April, and encourage your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to do the same. (Bay windows – Tim Wang and Sean Cahill both of the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health at baywindows.com/The-2020-census-If-you-arent-counted-we-dont-count)
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