30 September 2011

Is counting the census more difficult that it seems?

We're often told - quite rightly - that if one plays and jumbles with numbers enough they can be manipulated to say whatever one wants.

This is to be expected from political parties and retailers as they seek to garner more attention and loyalty, but it isn't expected from the United States Census Bureau.

Even so, this is precisely what has been done to the figures from the 2010 census in regards to the number of same-sex households in the nation.  The National Catholic Register has the story, with my emphases:

Original data published by the 2010 Census reported that the number of same-sex households in the U.S. was 901,997, including 349,377 same-sex “married couple households,” and 552,620 same-sex unmarried partner households.

On Tuesday, however, the Census Bureau admitted that those numbers were significantly revised downward after staff discovered inconsistency in file statistics “that artificially inflated the number of same-sex couples.”

The number initially reported was about 40% higher than what the Census Bureau believes to be accurate.

The Census Bureau now estimates that there are 131,729 same-sex “married couple households,” and 514,735 same-sex unmarried partner households in the U.S. for a total of 646,464 same-sex households. The Census Bureau had, therefore, misrepresented the number of same-sex couples by 255,533 or 39.5% [more, with good analysis].

That's no small miscalculation.  It could just be a complex [such a miscalculation could hardly be called simple] and honest mistake, but it seems more likely to have been done for political purposes yet to be uncovered.

Now, one might wonder, given the data collected by the census bureau it shouldn't be terribly difficult to count up the number of same-sex households; why give an estimate and not an actual figure?


  1. According to NPR, door-to-door census workers used forms on which it is somehow easy to mark the wrong sexual orientation for married couples for people not used to them. I'm not sure how they wound up revising the raw data unless they were made suspicious by statistical abnormalities in certain categories of form (which makes sense), but even 30 seconds of checking seems to provide a better explanation than conspiracy theory.

  2. Maybe you shouldn't have people taking census data if they don't know the forms...

  3. That's certainly fair.

    I'll admit what's really bothering me. I feel like, when I look around me, I see conservative Christians beating up on gays, often literally, and yet the Christians then claim victimization in what seems a recognizable style of cultural paranoia in times of cultural change. My sense of the students I work with is that the conservative students get so much more societal support than do homosexual students the very fact it's under discussion seems ridiculous.

    Yet at the same time, I agree with you about, for example, the right of churches to broad definitions of their religious ministry and not having to offer health insurance plans that go against their teachings, and I see where you come by your own views. And I guess that on this whole issue, as with so many others, I wish people could make more of an effort to understand the perspectives of their opponents rather than just caricature or demonize them, and to acknowledge the pain of others as well as our own frustrations. That shouldn't conflict with holding to values, or even arguing for them, but in itself would do so much to improve the quality of society.

    And obviously I've gone well beyond this post. Call it a tired Friday night after a typically busy week.

  4. I'm not sure if I just happen to live in a happy little bubble, but I've never seen a conservative Christian beating up on gays. Maybe it's because I'm Catholic and not a fundamentalist Protestant.

    We're often accused of "beating up" on gays, but we actually don't. We condmen sinful and immoral behavior, but never people.

    Even in the present legal battles in Illinois, the Church has never said that unmarried couples - whether heterosexual or homosexual - cannot adopt children or foster them. Certainly we would much rather they not, but we aren't going to court to stop them from doing so.

    Those who claim to be tolerant are proven quite the opposite by their own actions; they only tolerate those who agree with them and even else they seek to remove by whatever means necessary.

    And of course heterosexual students receive more societal support than homosexual students; homosexuals - by the updated census figure, which is still likely high - make up a staggering0.55% of the total population, far less than those forcing the gay agenda would have us believe. My sense is that most people are tired of the homosexual agenda being forced upon them from every side.

  5. Is that really what the newly revised Census stats reveal, Father -- that only .55% of the population is gay or lesbian? I thought that statistic was about same-sex couples (gay or lesbian) sharing a household. Obviously there are other people out there who are not living with someone who may, nonetheless, be gay or lesbian.

    I know a fair number of people from my work and social circles who are gay or lesbian, and I have very little sense that they want to force an "agenda" on anyone. They want to be treated equally under the law with people who are straight. Really, that does not strike me as unreasonable.

    For what it's worth, I'll mostly agree with both your and Brian's apparent take on the issue of Catholic Charities as a foster-care/adoption facilitator. It IS unfortunate that CC is being forced out. CC's willingness to refer same-sex foster parents or potential adopters to other agencies that would be willing to work with them seemed to me, then and now, to be a reasonable work-around. The state's argument (i.e., that state money is being paid, and that CC can still facilitate adoptions if it is willing to forego state funds and the legal entanglements such funds bring) is not altogether unreasonable. Still, I'd like to see CC stay in the mix -- be allowed to stay in the mix -- since there are plenty of children in this state who need good foster parents, and they need good social workers as well, which I assume CC was able to supply.

    Ultimately, though, I don't think of the state's move as part of a "gay agenda." It's the state being ham-handed in trying to ensure that individuals' rights are respected. I'm not about about to start feeling fed up when people (gays, African-Americans, people in unions, people who staff Catholic hospitals) want their rights protected. It's only natural for people to ask that they be treated fairly. And it's often very messy when we try to sort that stuff out, as is evident in the CC situation and the "no contraception in benefits plan" case.

  6. You are correct about that figure, Steve; thank you for the correction.

    In regards to your suggestion that all that is being persued is the protection of rights, I could not disagree more.

    At the rate things are "progressing," it will not be long before "anti-homosexual speech" will be a hate crime, crimes that will be vigorously pursued.

    You know who well and often the Church's teachings regarding sexual activity between persons of the same sex is misconstrued at teachings against homosexuals.

  7. The idea of speech crimes has never caught on in the U.S. the same way it has in Canada and the UK. This is true from both right (compare the Patriot Act to the UK version) and the left, where even campus attempts at "speech codes" usually fail. I'm not at all concerned about that.

    I am surprised about your naivete regarding anti-gay violence. Do you remember the period when some inhabitants at a certain dorm of our undergraduate school started chasing after the gay students weekend nights as a form of physical intimidation and harassment?

  8. To be honest, Brian, this is the first time I've heard about that at our alma mater.

    I don't dispute that such things do happen from time to time, but they are not part of an orchstrated plan by a large, organized and well-funded group.

  9. I agree they are not. I also understand that no mainstream Christian group I am aware of advocates such things, and that plenty of conservative Christians are actively sickened by and speak out in opposition to the doings of the Westboro Baptist Church and its kindred spirits.

    I would, however, argue that it's part of the social climate surrounding the gay rights movement and the everyday encounters between groups on the ground across the country. I actually brought it up to oppose the idea that a unified "homosexual movement" is dominating society and oppressing an inoffensive Christian population, which I know you didn't actually say was happening. Like I hinted at in a comment above, I needed a good night's sleep that night =) I obviously can't tell which lobbies, movements, etc. you mean when you say "homosexual movement" and "homosexual agenda," which is rhetoric I'm mostly familiar with from politics- and media-driven culture wars. Obviously, what you're worried about right now is the health insurance and adoption issues, which seems mostly a debate over what the values of collective nation are and how far they extend, one that could easily wind up in front of the Roberts Court in just a few years.

  10. I'm also very concerned about the growing push for so-called homosexual "marriage," together with the growing sentiment that if the Church(es) won't recognize "gay marriage" (which we simply can't do and remain faithful to our beliefs) then the Church(es) should not be involved in even true marriages.