CHICAGO (CBS) — The number of Illinoisans telling the U.S. Census Bureau they’re part of a same-sex couple has jumped significantly.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the Census Bureau says the number of Illinois households headed by same-sex couples increased 42 percent in the last 10 years.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Altogether, there were 32,469 gay and lesbian households in Illinois, up from 22,887 in 2000.

The jump was greater in women couples – an increase of 53 percent – compared with men couples, who saw an increase of 32 percent.

In total, there were 16,146 female couples and 16,053 male couples, compared with 10,732 female couples and 12,155 male couples in 2000.

The Chicago Tribune reported the numbers were up in the city of Chicago, as well as several suburbs. Aurora saw an 80 percent increase to 463 same-sex couples in 2010, while Oak Park saw the number of female couples go up almost 65 percent, the newspaper reported.

The city of Chicago saw a 25 percent increase in same-sex couples, to 11,715 from 9,412 in 2000, while the Cook County suburbs saw a 39 percent increase to 5,362 in 2010, the Tribune reported. The collar counties have fewer same-sex couples, but still saw increases, the newspaper reported.

Experts and advocates say a change in social attitudes toward gay couples and homosexuality in general has led more couples to report their relationships to the Census Bureau.

But demographers emphasize that the number of same-sex couples does not equate to the total number of gays and lesbians in Illinois. While same-sex couples living together are recognized, the Census does not allow single people to identify their sexual orientation.

Also, experts say, an exact comparison between 2000 and 2010 census numbers might not be entirely accurate because of some differences in how the Census Bureau collected and processed data on same-sex couples.

Some advocates also believe the number is underreported.

“There are still some parts of society where there’s more stigma attached to identifying yourself as gay or lesbian,” said Bernard Cherkasov, the head of the advocacy group Equality Illinois, told the Associated Press.

Cherkasov told the AP that some people might not want to identify themselves as a same-sex couple to the government, even if the forms are anonymous.

The 2010 Census predated the legalization of civil unions in Illinois, which went into effect in June. The civil law grants domestic partnerships with many of the same benefits of marriage to both gay and straight couples.

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