Income Characteristics of Same Sex Couples in the District:

The U.S. Treasury’s implementation of the June 2013 Supreme Court’s decision to disallow aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act will allow same sex couples in the District to file Federal income taxes as married couples for the first time for the tax year that ended in 2014 and which are due April 15, 2015. Under previous District and Federal law, same sex couples in the District could file their local District income taxes either as a married couple, domestic partners or as single filers. For Federal taxes, the only option available to them was to file separately as single filers.

This difference in filing statuses that existed between the District and Federal income taxes allows to more easily identify household income characteristics of same sex couples using local District income tax data. This data can be useful to supplement and validate other data that relies primarily on marketing surveys and sample data from the Census. This data is important for social and demographic research and provides key insight for community planners and housing developers for instance.

The following graph and table presents income characteristics for same sex couples compared to all married couples in the District.

Income of Same Sex Couples in the District: Tax Year 2012

same sex 1

Median Average Highest 10% Lowest 10 %
Same sex married couples $163,436 $220,537 $347,054 $70,763
All married couples $132,220 $242,325 $389,009 $29,469

Key highlights:

  • Median income, measured by Federal adjusted income, for same sex couples was somewhat higher than for overall married couples, $163,436 compared to $132,220 for all couples. In other words, 50 percent of same sex couples earned more than $163,436 and 50 percent earned less.
  • The variation in income among same sex couples was lower compared to the all married couples. There were both fewer low income earners and fewer very high income earners among same sex couples.
  • Higher incomes at the very high end of the income distribution caused the average income for all married couples to exceed same sex couples.

While the data provides some interesting statistics on income for same sex couples in the District, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from the data as to why there is less variability in the distribution of income among same sex couples compared to all married couples.

The data does not provide information on whether there are a greater percentage of two-income earners among same sex couples as compared to all married couples.  Nor does the data provide information on the age of filers-there could be relatively fewer same sex couples that are either early in their career earnings path or in retirement, when incomes tend to be lower, therefore explaining the lower concentration of low income same sex filers compared to all married couples. Finally since the legislation that enacted same sex marriage in the District, as in most places, is  still relatively new  (legislation was passed in late 2009 and licenses were first issued in 2010), it may be that same sex couples that have married, so far have been concentrated among higher income filers.

As final data becomes available for tax years 2013 and 2014  we will update our findings and see if we can draw stronger conclusions. In the meantime this analysis provides a first snapshot that will be useful to researchers and users of data.

3 thoughts on “Income Characteristics of Same Sex Couples in the District:

  1. Yes, without additional data it’s hard to draw accurate conclusions here. Since both “All couples” and same sex couples means are greater than their medians; can we say that their distributions are skewed to right. Meaning in both cases there are less wealthy earners than low earners. This is an obvious conclusion and beyond that it’s hard to dig deeper.

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  2. meant to write “we say that their distributions are skewed to right” instead of “can we say that their distributions are skewed to right”

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