You are on page 1of 16

Hidden from Census: Queer People, Straight Census

Same-Sex Couples and the Israeli Census
Vered Kraus and Yuval Yonay, University of Haifa

Paper presented at the American Sociological Meetings, Chicago, August 2002
 To peep into the lives of closeted people from a unique perspective.  To introduce Lesbian and gay (LG) couples into official statistics and learn basic sociological characteristics of LG couples.  To explore how queer people respond to the risk of being exposed in formal surveys.  To discuss ethical dilemmas related to the possibility of identifying queer couples against their will.  To learn how the results of the encounter between queer people and official bureaucracies are reflected in the final outputs of those bureaucracies.  To comprehend more generally the nature of the interaction of social science research and minority people and the limitations of social science itself.  To comprehend the hidden “straight” assumptions behind many surveys and to highlight potential other biases due to these assumptions.


’s study (NHSLS) and GSS might be biased as well. asking basic questions that people should have no problem answering. and practices. therefore.  But: Social surveys may expose gay people by documenting the The very intrusion of a stranger who represents the state and living of two persons of the same sex at the same residential unit.  How LG couples respond to the census and other surveys:  Many LG spend a great deal of energy to avoid their Even those who are open to their friends.Sociology of Lesbians and Gays in the Census  The census as a unique social endeavor:   It is ten times larger than any other social science project.  The census is used in policy making and in social planning (not as crucial as in the US in determining budget allocation and political representation but still important).  workplace wish not to be identified by government agencies and other bureaucracies.  The intrusion into our homes is believed to be harmless. do not ask about sexual preferences. whose task is to provide information on private lives puts closeted GL couples . It reaches supposedly any single household in the country. or by strangers who happen to enter their homes. orientation. even when such questions are relevant.  Most surveys. and who may betray the information to the neighbor next door. this practice is still pervasive today.  in risk. o Surveys that are GL targeted are biased toward gays and Lesbians who are more active in the community. family and at the identification as such. o Laumann et al.

and it includes questions on: household appliances. Any count is prone to yield gross underestimation.  Yet social scientists want to know  processes. towns. and neighborhood. residence and marriage history. country of birth of individuals and parents.  • --A larger one is distributed randomly to fifth of the households Employment. who live in highly segregated villages. Most of the non-Jewish population in Israel is Palestinian-Arabs. income.518 households in Israel. religion. something we should not talk about. where extended families still live in close proximity and social Two types of forms: --A very short one is supposed to be filled for all people living . Practical and theoretical motivations. understanding social trends and  We do not search other types of queer families Methodology • The Israeli census:   in Israel. housing.How many Lesbians and Gays?  Who Cares?  Activists resist attempts to count GLBT people: • • The rights of these people should not depend on their number. Who is gay/Lesbian?   The Lesbian continuum/the gay continuum Here we look for two-men and two-women couples. • We have extensive information on 352. children. car ownership. o We excluded non-Jewish respondents.  Why not? Not studying Lesbians and gays because “it is a private matter” connotes a sense of shame.

Note: The word for “spouse” in Hebrew does not assume marriage. The rest of the residents of the household are identified according to their relation to the head.control is very high. therefore.” • What would be the reaction of a gay man or woman when asked about “other persons living in the house”?  “Spouse” if they have no problem with exposing themselves as “Another relation. reliance upon ‘creative” accommodation arrangements during the first years in Israel. as convenient for the interviewees).” further distancing themselves from the other No identification at all. but we looked at each case separately. Unknown.” “single.” and “divorced. person to avoid questions and possible exposure. • In each household. a sibling.  the family without using the explicit term of “spouse.” properly treating the partner as belonging to gay to the interviewer or even perceive it as a political move. where they can choose among “married. mother/father. Son/daughter-in-law.” “widowed. nor can we identify married Lesbians and gays. no family relation [a roommate. The available categories include:  Spouse. nil. therefore. • We have attempted. to identify only gay couples that live together.  . one adult had to identify herself or himself as the head of the household (arbitrary. mostly from the former Soviet Union. who live with a person of the other sex but are sexually attracted to people of their own sex. people are asked separately about their family status. a sublet. article in Demography (May 2000). o Also excluded are recent immigrants. The likelihood of finding a queer household in such a place is. son/daughter.” which at least formally does not fit.” • We have no clue about the sexuality of people who live alone. cousin. “ethnography of statistical files. who arrived in 1990-1995.  “No relation. a friend]. Another family relation. o Same as in Dan Black et al. father/mother-in law. not all family members came together.

working in lowpaying occupations/very low education. in manual jobs. o Number of rooms: if there is only one or one and a half room – it may indicate that the residents are life partners or extremely poor. with at least secondary education. o A large number of children. both employed (if not retired).• • It is also possible to hide the fact that another person lives in the household. or. immigrants from traditional societies. . o Marriage at a very early age. where rent is up to $300 per room per month). • The stereotypical gay couple: two adults. o Assumption: apartment sharing of two unrelated adults is very rare (except of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. o Two person with very low incomes. • Hints used in speculations (examples): o The same year of immigration and the same origin ===> probably belong to the same family. o A danger of not identifying Lesbians and gays with little education. if income is missing. Our study is based on the examination of all the households with two women or with two men who are more than 35 year old (including those with more than 2 persons in the household).

Table 1 Likelihood of LG couples of all Two-Women and Two-Men Households All Jewish Households without Recent Immigrants. Census 1995 Likelihood of Gay/lesbian Couple Type of Household Two men Married spouses Unmarried spouses No Relation Another Relation Unknown Two men – Total Two women Married spouses Unmarried spouses No Relation Another Relation Unknown Two women – Total Extremely unlikely Hardly imaginable Possibly gay Very probably gay 30 1 4 35 18 1 1 2 16 38 7 3 2 6 1 3 15 1 6 10 17 2 6 5 4 17 42 8 11 2 13 76 20 11 6 3 34 74 N 2 9 1 2 2 4 9 2 3 1 4 10 .

EXAMPLES Gay profiles: Case 67. married. 42. They both live in Tel Aviv since 1993 in a privately-owned 2. single.635 Head of household: male. has 14 years schooling. 3. both parents are from Hungaria. single. Spouse: male. single. 48. Born in Israel. Spouse: female. 16 years of schooling. born in Poland.5-room apartment. BA degree. . Case 22. 3453 INS They live in a small town since 1987. married in 1983. married in 1974.0100 INS Both work 60 hours a week. worked 48 hours as a buyer in branch 945. Case 94904 Head of households: female. 36. a steward. Both “married once” in 1979. Israeli-born father and Hungarian-born mother. with a BA degree. divorced. two kids. also an employer in a small business (3-9 workers) in a clothing retail or import business. American-born father and Israeli-born mother. Case 330112 Head of household: Male. but much lower income of 4. parents from Eastern Europe. immigrated 1971. Born in South Africa 1945. worked 50 hours as a tourist guide. born in Israel. born in Argentina. born 1951 in Israel. Parents born in Poland and the Soviet Union..D. came in 1971.680 INS.100 INS. divorced. Spouse: married. born in 1957 in Israel. has a Ph. No Relation: Male. 37. This case is similar to the above but married at the age of 33 and 34. an employer in a small business (3-9 workers) in a clothing retail or import business. born in Israel in 1946.000 INS. in a rented 2-room apartment. single. in Israel since 1986.281 Head of household: male. works 50 hours in management . 5. income of 16. Personal knowledge: this is a known gay activist. a lawyer in a commercial bank.

44. emigrated from Romania in 1950. Unknown I: female. No relation: female. The spouse: male. married. They live in Tel Aviv in 2-room apartment. Case 136503 Head of household: female. 15962: The head of the household: male.5000 INS. 44. Unknown II: male. born 1939. works 47 hours a week as a supervising clerk and earns 4. Both married once. worked 8 hours in the last week before the census. emigrated from Bulgaria in 1949. 52.5-room apartment. Case 166809 Head of household: female. born 1944. 5. 50. married. They live in a middle-sized town near Tel Aviv in a privately owned 4-room apartment. a self-employed taxi-driver. works 47 hours as a secretary. born in Israel. born in Israel. They live in a big city near Tel Aviv in 2. 15. 11 years in school. Romanian parents. works but no details. 14 years in school. neither on marriage and children. works. works but no data on her work. 000 INS. 12 years in school. immigrated to Israel from Romania 1959. born in Israel. in 1962. no information on marriage and children. Unknown: female. 10 years schooling. 52. married. 55. single. Iraqi-born mother and Israeli-born father. 43. . Wrong coding of sex: Case No. Israeli-born father and mother from Poland. born in Israel. but no information on work. divorced. single. single. protected rent.Case 211286 Head of household: female. immigrated to Israel from Romania 1947. Israeli-born from Romanian origin. Israeli-born parents. 56. 12 years schooling.

64. 8 years of schooling. 63. Unknown: female. Spouse: female. Unknown: female. They live in Jerusalem in a 4-room apartment Other cases: Case 16578 Head of household: female. they married once in 1963. Daughter: female. a secretary in an insurance firm. 46. born in Israel. Both emigrated from Egypt in 1957 and had married once in 1947. secretary in building material industry. 2 children. 55. 14 years schooling. 30. single. 55. and they provided no information on marriage and children. 72. Daughter: female. Both are married.Case 183292 Head of household: female. came from Morocco in 1960. Spouse: male. They both have 4 years of schooling. 6 years of schooling. Moroccan origin. single. . 52. widow. number of children unknown. both are unemployed. Both were born in Israel to an Egyptian-born mother and Yemenite-born father. 20. married. single. 68. Unknown: female. 63. married Spouse: female. single. Case 7874 Head of household: male. 14 years schooling. no information on employment. they came from Yemen in 1949. they do not work. 59. and emigrated from Iran 1965. no information on employment. also emigrated from Egypt in 1957. Case 64938 Head of household: male. 55. Case 25563 Head of household: female. single.

works but no information on his job. Both work but no information on employment.400 INS. Unknown: female. single. married once in 1981. single. Israeli-born from Iraqi origin. 12 years in school. 16 years schooling.Case 26042 Head of household: female. emigrated from the Ukraine in 1966. Case 329024: Head of household: male. single. They live in Jerusalem in 2. Case 227201 Head of household: male. single. came in 1952 from Iraq. 14 years in school. No family relation: male. married but no details on marriage. worked 40 hours as a self-employed in textile retailing. born in Morocco and came to Israel in 1961. 2. worked 45 hours as a dyer in the furniture industry and earned 7. single. 12 years in school. 12 years in school. 44. 65. works but no information on his job. Iraqi-born who arrived at Israel in 1952. does not work.5-room apartment. Both live in a big city near Tel Aviv since 1993. Unknown: male. 51. Case 343544 Head of household: male. came in 1949 from Turkey. Both live in a big city near Tel Aviv in a privately owned 4-room apartment. 62. 39. married in 1991. works 48 hours as a manager in the entertainment industry. divorced. no information on income. Israeli-born from Moroccan origin. 10 years schooling. Unknown: male.500 INS. divorced. . Both live in a mid-size city near Tel Aviv in a 4-room apartment. 59. 2 years after the younger man got divorced. Israeli-born from a Polish-Austrian origin. 47.

Case 45487 Head of household: female.5-room apartment. has 14 years schooling.000 INS. Two adult men in a three-persons households We analyzed the first 12 cases out of 65. Israeli-born from a Russian origin. widowed. All live in Jerusalem in a 3-room apartment. no work. father from Poland. married in 1974. Israeli-born of Iranian origin. works 50 hours in management. has a Ph. not working. single. mother from Austria. born in Israel. 61. BA degree. 22. They all live in Tel Aviv in 2. single. 36. Unknown I: male. born in Israel. 8 years in school. Spouse: female. There were also many cases of family members who live together. Iranian-born who arrived at Israel in 1923. single.. born in Israel. 89. both parents are from Hungary. 47. only two cases could be of gays but only if we stretch our imagination. Case 94904 Head of households: female. 55. at least third generation Israeli.5-room apartment. . 5. German-born father and Israeli-born mother. widow. Case 87343 Head of household: male.. divorced. Unknown: female. not working. does not work. there were again many cases of sex-coding errors.Two adult women in a three-persons households We analyzed a sample of 39 cases out of 70 households. single. Israeli-born father and Hungarian-born mother. but none looked liked a “stereotyped” Lesbian couple. works 40 hours as guard. We have not analyzed yet the cases of 4-persons households with two women. 42. Among the rest. e.D. married. They both live in Tel Aviv since 1993 in a privately-owned 2. Unknown II: male. 13 years in school. 3000 INS. two kids. no work. Among these 39 cases six could be of Lesbian couples. Daughter: female.g. Born in Israel. 39.

. born in Czechoslovakia. we analyzed the first 16. Unknown I: female. in Israel since 1949. single. Only one case might involve gays but this is extremely unlikely: Case 95241 Head of household: male. 72. married. single. The first three have 8 years of schooling. Israeli-born of Yemenite origin. born in Czechoslovakia. the last one has 12 years. in Israel since 1949 Unknown III: male. in Israel since 1949. married. 37. 72. 49. they all live in Jerusalem in a 3-room apartment. Unknown II: male. born in Poland.Two adult men in a four-persons households 65 cases.

 How possibly LG couples presented themselves?    Many chose the category of “spouse. many who argued that they were not related are also suspected as gay (but might be roommates).Conclusions  Most LG couples hide their cohabiting?  Only 27 cases could easily be LG (but not sure) and 32 who might be so. we reach a maximum estimation of 295 [(27+32) X 5] couples only. . also claimed to be married. treated as a dichotomous variable. o Questions on marriage (not on partners. Among men. If immigrants and Palestinians were included. of course.   About 60% of the cases do not look like LG couples at all.). o It is very hard to distinguish between unmarried hetero couples and LG couples due to mistakes in sex coding (a very small fraction of cases is enough to substantially distort our sample of LG couples). o Sex is.” A few. o New family structures and patterns require more sophisticated surveys.  Is it a realistic estimation of LG couples that live in the same household without children (and both are above 35)?  Households with two persons of the same sex are not a good estimation of LG couples. o It is hard to distinguish between LG couples and mere roommates. beginning of cohabiting.  The LG continuum: being roommates due to emotional attraction?  The questionnaires are based on “straight” assumptions. etc.  Serious identification problems. if we multiply by 5. o No attempt to identify non-family members who live in the household. the percentage of “real” LG couples would have been much lower. o Only women are asked about children. all men.

. many who are suspected as Lesbian did not select any relationship. Among women.

 Interviews with people who work in the Central Bureau of Statistics to study how they mend the data after their collection. healthrelated etc.). o What we did.  Interviews with people who worked in the Census to find out what happens in real life?  Expanding the analysis to people 25 year-old and older. What Next?  Interviews with LG couples who lived together in 1995.  Comparison to households with one single person??? . asking also how they respond to other surveys and what they do when they fill in official forms (insurance. including the government and private companies. Numerous Mistakes o The attempts to correct inconsistent data may further distort them. others could do as well.  Ethical issues o Our ability to identify a specific case is disturbing.