, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 317–340 | Cite as

The Effect of Same-Sex Marriage Laws on Different-Sex Marriage: Evidence From the Netherlands



It has long been argued that the legalization of same-sex marriage would have a negative impact on marriage. In this article, I examine how different-sex marriage in the Netherlands was affected by the enactment of two laws: a 1998 law that provided all couples with an institution almost identical to marriage (a “registered partnership”) and a 2001 law that legalized same-sex marriage for the first time in the world. I first construct a synthetic control for the Netherlands using OECD data for the period 1988–2005 and find that neither law had significant effects on either the overall or different-sex marriage rate. I next construct a unique individual-level data set covering the period 1995–2005 by combining the Dutch Labor Force Survey and official municipal records. The estimates from a discrete-time hazard model with unobserved heterogeneity for the first-marriage decision confirm the findings in the aggregate analysis. The effects of the two laws are heterogeneous, with presumably more-liberal individuals (as defined by their residence or ethnicity) marrying less after passage of both laws and potentially more-conservative individuals marrying more after passage of each law.


Same-sex marriage Synthetic control Discrete-time hazard model 



I am indebted to Judy Hellerstein and Seth Sanders for their support and guidance throughout this project. I am also grateful for comments provided by Meltem Daysal, John Ham, Bas van der Klaauw, John Wallis, and seminar participants at the University of Maryland, Tinbergen Institute, Delft University of Technology, McGill University, Paris School of Economics, Population Association of America, the Society of Labor Economists, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, and the Southern Economic Association. This article benefited from discussions with Kees Waaldijk and Boris Dittrich. Special thanks go to Gerhard Meinen, Ineke Brekelsman, and the Microdata Lab at Statistics Netherlands, and to Jaap Abbring, the Tinbergen Institute, and Tilburg University. Parts of this article were written while I completed my PhD degree at the University of Maryland with financial support from Seth Sanders and the Maryland Population Research Center, and while I visited the Tinbergen Institute and Tilburg University. All remaining errors are my own.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business and EconomicsUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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