Same-sex couples are more likely to live in urban counties than in rural America. But there are hundreds of rural communities where the percentage of same sex couples rivals rates found in urban areas.
The U.S. Census counts a same sex-couple where two adults of the same sex say they are living together and they identify each other as a husband, wife or unmarried partner. Demographers use this figure as a rough indication of the gay and lesbian population in a community.
The concentration of same-sex couples in urban counties is nearly twice that of rural counties.
In urban counties, there are an average of 6.3 same-sex couples per thousand households. In exurban counties, the rate is 3.7 per thousand. And in rural counties, the average rate of same-sex couples is 3.2 per thousand households. (Exurban counties are part of urban regions, but have about half their population living in rural settings.)
But there are very few rural counties that are “average.” Most are well above or well below the rural rate.
There are just over 64,000 same sex couples living in rural communities. They account for 10 percent of all same-sex couples in the country.
Rural counties have just over 17 percent of all households in the country.
Just over 38,000 same sex-couples live in exurban counties — about 6 percent of all same-sex couples
The map above shows the percentage of households that are same sex in all rural counties. Dark green counties have concentrations of same-sex couples above the national average. Light green counties are above the rural average.
Tannish counties are at about the rural average. And the majority of counties are gray. They are well below the rural average.
Click here or on the map to see a larger version.
(A technical note here: This story uses a revised set of data on same-sex couples the Census Bureau recently released. An earlier story in the Yonder about the rural counties with the largest numbers of same-sex couples used an earlier set of Census figures. The Census believes the earlier figures over-counted same-sex couples. The new calculations count a smaller number of same-sex couples. The relative position of counties doesn’t change much between the two sets of data. Demographer Gary Gates believes the Census is now undercounting same-sex couples. If anyone would like an Excel file with the complete set of data, email me at email@example.com.)
UCLA demographer Gary Gates says same-sex couples look a lot like their straight neighbors. One in five same-sex couples have children. A large number say they are legally married.
When the new Census figures were released, reporters found that the number of same-sex couples increased fastest in states with laws against gay marriage. Gates believes that same-sex couples are growing more comfortable in reporting their relationships.
The rural counties with the highest concentration of same-sex couples contain both the expected and the surprising. That Monroe County, Florida, home of Key West, has the largest percentage of same-sex households won’t come as a shock to many. But second on the list is Douglas County, South Dakota.
Here are the 50 rural counties with the largest number of same-sex couples per thousand households. (We excluded counties with fewer than 15 same sex couples because the small number diminished the reliability of the data.)
And here are the 50 exurban counties with the largest percentage of same-sex households.