Census data helps marketing to gays

A gay marriage supporter participates in a rally.

by Nathan Bernier

On a quiet residential street in Austin, Kermit Johns runs a small investment advisory firm. He's been with his male partner for 36 years. And when Johns received his census form, he marked "married", even though he lives in a state where gay marriage is banned.

"I did that because I'm an honest guy," says Johns. "And I certainly don't have any secrets from the United States government. I'm a taxpayer like everybody else. So I answered honestly."

In this census, he'll be counted as married. That wasn't the case in 2000. When gay people checked the box for "married" on their census forms 10 years ago, it was changed by the Census Bureau to "unwedded couple".

Linda Golden, a marketing professor at the University of Texas, says being able to count gay couples who self-identify as married will be gold for advertisers.

"You can use it to find out are there enough people to make it worth spending the money to market to this geographical area. That in itself is huge," says Golden.

David Paisley is with Community Marking Inc., based in San Francisco. He says, "Well I think it's interesting, if we look at it from 10 years ago to today, one thing I think you'll find is that there will be many, many more same sex partners in rural America, in suburban America."

Paisley's firm targets gay consumers. He says for marketers like him, it's not only important to know where gay people live, but also the kinds of relationships they have with each other.

"So for example, if I was looking to sell, say luxury cruises, I'd probably be targeting couples," says Paisley.

And the census information will tell marketers which communities have a larger percentage of gays and lesbians in long-term relationships. But marketers won't be able to get their hands on this information until next year when raw census data is released.

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