, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 113–151 | Cite as

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couples and Family Formation

  • Mircea TrandafirEmail author


It has long been debated how legalizing same-sex marriage would affect (different-sex) family formation. In this article, I use data on OECD member countries for the period 1980–2009 to examine the effects of the legal recognition of same-sex couples (through marriage or an alternative institution) on different-sex marriage, divorce, and extramarital births. Estimates from difference-in-difference models indicate that the introduction of same-sex marriage or of alternative institutions has no negative effects on family formation. These findings are robust to a multitude of specification checks, including the construction of counterfactuals using the synthetic control method. In addition, the country-by-country case studies provide evidence of homogeneity of the estimated effects.


Same-sex marriage Divorce Extramarital births Synthetic control 



I am grateful to Meltem Daysal, Dan Hamermesh, Judy Hellerstein, and multiple anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are my own.

Supplementary material

13524_2014_361_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (882 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 882 kb)


  1. Abadie, A., Diamond, A., & Hainmueller, J. (2010). Synthetic control methods for comparative case studies: Estimating the effect of California’s tobacco control program. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 105, 493–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abadie, A., & Gardeazabal, J. (2003). The economic costs of conflict: A case study of the Basque country. American Economic Review, 93, 113–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adsera, A. (2005). Vanishing children: From high unemployment to low fertility in developed countries. American Economic Review, 95, 189–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Akerlof, G., & Kranton, R. (2000). Economics and identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, 715–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allen, D. W. (1992). Marriage and divorce: Comment. American Economic Review, 82, 679–685.Google Scholar
  6. Allen, D. W. (2013). High school graduation rates among children of same-sex households. Review of Economics of the Household, 11, 635–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Allen, D. W., Pakaluk, C., & Price, J. (2013). Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school: A comment on Rosenfeld. Demography, 50, 955–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Allen, D. W., Pendakur, K., & Suen, W. (2006). No-fault divorce and the compression of marriage ages. Economic Inquiry, 44, 547–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Alm, J., Badgett, M. V. L., & Whittington, L. A. (2000). Wedding bell blues: The income tax consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage. National Tax Journal, 53, 201–215.Google Scholar
  10. Becker, G. S. (1973). A theory of marriage: Part I. Journal of Political Economy, 81, 813–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Becker, G. S. (1974). A theory of marriage: Part II. Journal of Political Economy, 82, S11–S26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Billmeier, A., & Nannicini, T. (2013). Assessing economic liberalization episodes: A synthetic control approach. Review of Economics and Statistics, 95, 983–1001.Google Scholar
  13. Bitler, M., Gelbach, J., Hoynes, H., & Zavodny, M. (2004). The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce. Demography, 41, 213–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cahill, S. (2004). Same-sex marriage in the United States: Focus on the facts. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  15. Cavallo, E., Galiani, S., Noy, I., & Pantano, J. (2013). Catastrophic natural disasters and economic growth. Review of Economics and Statistics, 95, 1549–1561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cherlin, A. (2004). The deinstitutionalization of American marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 848–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coontz, S. (2004). The world historical transformation of marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 974–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dee, T. (2008). Forsaking all others? The effects of same-sex partnership laws on risky sex. Economic Journal, 118, 1055–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dillender, M. (2014). The death of marriage? The effects of new forms of legal recognition on marriage rates in the United States. Demography, 51, 563–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gould, E., & Paserman, D. (2003). Waiting for Mr. Right: Rising inequality and declining marriage rates. Journal of Urban Economics, 53, 257–281.Google Scholar
  21. Hellerstein, J., & Morrill, M. S. (2011). Booms, busts, and divorce. B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 11, 1–26.Google Scholar
  22. Hoem, J. (1991). To marry, just in case … : The Swedish widow’s-pension reform and the peak in marriages in December 1989. Acta Sociologica, 34, 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kurtz, S. (2004). The end of marriage in Scandinavia. The Weekly Standard, 9(20), 26.Google Scholar
  24. Langbein, L., & Yost, M. (2009). Same-sex marriage and negative externalities. Social Science Quarterly, 90, 292–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lauer, S., & Yodanis, C. (2010). The deinstitutionalization of marriage revisited: A new institutional approach to marriage. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 2(1), 58–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee, W.-S. (2011). Comparative case studies of the effects of inflation targeting in emerging economies. Oxford Economic Papers, 63, 375–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lundberg, S., & Pollak, R. A. (2007). The American family and family economics. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mello, M. (2004). Legalizing gay marriage. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Merin, Y. (2002). Equality for same-sex couples: The legal recognition of gay partnerships in Europe and the United States. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mocan, N. (1990). Business cycles and fertility dynamics in the United States: A vector autoregressive model. Journal of Population Economics, 3, 125–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nannicini, T., & Billmeier, A. (2011). Economies in transition: How important is trade openness for growth? Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 73, 287–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rasul, I. (2006). Marriage markets and divorce laws. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 22, 30–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rauch, J. (2004). Gay marriage: Why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America. New York, NY: Times Books.Google Scholar
  34. Rosenfeld, M. (2010). Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school. Demography, 47, 755–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Safire, W. (2003, June 30). The bedroom door. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  36. Schaller, J. (2013). For richer, if not for poorer? Marriage and divorce over the business cycle. Journal of Population Economics, 26, 1007–1033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2007). Marriage and divorce: Changes and their driving forces. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21, 27–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Trandafir, M. (2014). The effect of same-sex marriage laws on different-sex marriage: Evidence from the Netherlands. Demography, 51, 317–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Waaldijk, K. (2004). Levels of legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners: Comparative overview. In K. Waaldijk (Ed.), More or less together: Levels of legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnerships for different-sex and same-sex partners. A comparative study of nine European countries (pp. 137–153). Paris, France: Institut National d’Études.Google Scholar
  40. Wright, W. (2006). The tide in favour of equality: Same-sex marriage in Canada and England and Wales. International Journal of Law, Policy & the Family, 20, 249–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations