Census Bureau admits changing classification of "same-sex spouses" to "married couples" in 1990 data.

By R.E. Blake Evans

One of the hottest controversies in demographics is roaring over Census 2000, which shows gargantuan increases in the number of same-sex households. However, the Census Bureau now admits that a large part of the increase is the result of alterations the Bureau made to same-sex couple data in 1990.

Gregory Spencer, chief of the population projection branch at the Bureau, says that during the 1990 census officials routinely changed the reported sex of those counted "to preserve the married couple status. If they said they were 'married' to someone of the same sex, even if they were just living together, we simply changed the partner's sex and just made them a married [heterosexual] couple."

As of July, only 50 percent of the states have reported 2000 data, but many say they are finding dramatic increases in the number of same-sex families. Of course, the comparisons to a decade ago simply are not valid.

Demographers are livid. "We were lied to," says Wolf Johnson, an independent research analyst on population and advertising in Atlanta. "Not only on how many true family households were out there, but what kind of people and buyers were living in those households. It's wrong data."

The 2000 Census, for the first time, did allow households to register as single, married, or co-habitating non-relatives (roommates). Gay and lesbian households could claim an unmarried partner.

Apparently, builders are noticing the population shift, too, although they're not necessarily being up front about it. One Alexandria, Va.­based builder, who asked not to be identified as someone who sells to the same-sex community, admits he sold out an infill project his company built in Washington, where 60 percent of the buyers were female couples. He did not market specifically to same-sex couples, but ads in Washington's gay newspaper ran for six months.

Bureau Blunders

Percentage increase in households reporting same-sex partners from 1990 to 2000 in selected states:

Delaware: 781%

Alabama: 658%

Colorado: 385%

Illinois: 268%

New York: 238%

Source: U.S. Census 2000

Bogus numbers: Though hard numbers are not available (and those above are now known to be inflated), demographers and psychologists estimate the gay population at 9 percent to 12 percent of the total U.S. population.