Family Formation and Raising Children Among Same-sex Couples

By Gary Gates
January 2012
Article featured in: National Council of Family Relations (issue FF51)

Proportionally fewer same-sex couples are raising children today than in 2006, and their families reflect greater racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity than often represented in the media and academic research. Notably, childrearing is substantially higher among racial/ethnic minorities. Also, among individuals in same-sex couples who did not finish high school, 43% are raising children, and 20% of children raised by same-sex couples live in poverty.

The decrease in the proportion of couples raising children may be due to decreases in parenting by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals who had children at a relatively young age while in a relationship with a different-sex partner. Declining social stigma toward LGB people may mean that more are coming out earlier in life and are becoming less likely to have children with different-sex partners. Despite the proportional declines in parenting, analyses also show that adoptive parenting is clearly increasing.  Among couples with children, the proportion of same-sex couples who have adopted children has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between 2000 and 2009.

Despite the decline, the number of same-sex couples raising children is still much higher today than ten years ago since many more couples are reporting themselves in Census Bureau data.  In 2000, the Census reported about 63,000 couples raising children.  Today, the figure is now more than 110,000.

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