An unmarried-partner household is a household other than a "married-couple household" that includes a householder and an "unmarried partner." An "unmarried partner" can be of the same sex or of the opposite sex as the householder. An "unmarried partner" in an "unmarried-partner household" is an adult who is unrelated to the householder, but shares living quarters and has a close personal relationship with the householder. An unmarried-partner household also may be a family household or a nonfamily household, depending on the presence or absence of another person in the household who is related to the householder. There may be only one unmarried partner per household, and an unmarried partner may not be included in a married-couple household, as the householder cannot have both a spouse and an unmarried partner. Same-sex married couples are included in the count of unmarried-partner households for tabulations purposes and for public use data files.
Between 1996 and 2007, the question response categories remained the same. In 2008, the "Son or daughter" category was expanded to "Biological son or daughter," "Adopted son or daughter," and "Stepson or stepdaughter." Also "In-law" was expanded to "Parent-in-law" and "Son-in-law or daughter-in-law."
Limitation of the Data
Unlike the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the ACS relationship question does not have a parent pointer to identify whether both parents are present. For example, if a child lives with unmarried parents, we only know the relationship of the child to the householder, not to the other parent. So a count of children living with two biological parents is not precise.
The relationship categories for the most part can be compared to previous ACS years and to similar data collected in the decennial census, CPS, and SIPP. With the change in 2008 from "In-law" to the two categories of "Parent-in-law" and "Son-in-law or daughter-in-law," caution should be exercised when comparing data on in-laws from previous years. "In-law" encompassed any type of in-law such as sister-in-law. Combining "Parent-in-law" and "son-in-law or daughter-in-law" does not represent all "in-laws" in 2008. The same can be said of comparing the three categories of "biological" "step," and "adopted" child in 2008 to "Child" in previous years. Before 2008, respondents may have considered anyone under 18 as "child" and chosen that category. The ACS includes "foster child" as a category. However, the 2010 census did not contain this category, and "foster children" were included in the "Other nonrelative" category. Therefore, comparison of "foster child" cannot be made to the 2010 Census. Beginning in 2013, the "spouse" category includes same-sex spouses.