An estimated 1,200 Irish-born men and women – roughly a third of all Ireland’s gay couples — are living with a same-sex partner in the United States, according to a new study based on U.S. Census data.

The study found that more than 500 Irish-born same-sex partners here are not U.S. citizens, and would be among those most likely to return to Ireland to take advantage of a forthcoming civil-partnership bill to be introduced by Irish Minister for Justice and Equality Brian Lenihan by March 31.

Gary Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute, a public policy think tank at the University of California Los Angeles Law School,  told The Irish Voice: “Same-sex partnership legislation could help to entice a very talented group of Irish-born emigrants back to live and work in their homeland. Our study found that 43 percent of Irish-born same-sex partners living in the U.S. are college-educated.”

Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the study found that two-thirds of Irish-born same-sex partners in the US are women. The researchers also found that Irish-born same-sex partners are highly educated, with more than four in ten (43 percent) possessing a college degree. More than one in seven couples that include an Irish-born partner (15 percent) are raising children. An additional 2,000 same-sex couples are living in Ireland, according to the study.

As the Irish Government considers the details of the civil-partnership law, Gates added, “Irish policymakers should look beyond their own shores when they consider the possible effects of civil-partnership legislation, some of which might be very good for the Irish economy.”

In the United States, the Williams Institute has recently conducted a series of studies on the economic consequences of a state implementing marriage or other forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples, providing data to inform those debates.

Says Gates: “With help from the recent Census data, I discovered that I could determine what portion of same-sex couples were Irish-born. But since Ireland does not permit foreign-born partners of Irish people to work there, for most same-sex couples it is not an option to move back. In consequence, Ireland is missing out on highly educated college graduates, the kind of talent that Ireland hopes to attract, due to legislation that won’t permit them to move home with their U.S. born partners.”