Number of Married Gays Drops 62% Because People Are Bad at Forms

A few incorrectly checked boxes caused a lot of problems for the U.S. Census Bureau

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The U.S. Census Bureau has just released a startling new statistic: its count of same-sex married couples has dropped a whopping 62 percent, from 349,377 to 131,729. Who's to blame for this precipitous drop? Obama? Religious leaders? The GOP? A wave of divorces? No, none of the above: the American people are really bad at filling out forms correctly.

The bureau tabulates the number of wed gays by combining the questions that ask about martial status and sex. If a couple checks off that they're married and they happen to be the same sex, then--bam!--the Census says they're gay married. But that method has caused some problems:

When data were captured for these two questions on the 2010 Census door-to-door form, the wrong box may have been checked for the sex of a small percentage of opposite-sex spouses and unmarried partners. Because the population of opposite-sex married couples is large and the population of same-sex married couples in particular is small, an error of this type artificially inflates the number of same-sex married partners.

Don't give me that math. Clearly, no one knows their gender anymore.

In any case, how did the Census Bureau fix this? They looked at people's names to check if anybody with male names thought they were ladies on the Census (and vice versa). And, as CNN notes, the revised 131,729 figure is still a huge increase over estimates for gay married couples from previous years.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.