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A labor of love: The impact of same-sex marriage on labor supply


We study how the average labor supply of gay men and lesbian women responds to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. We exploit variation in the timing of legalization across states from 2003 to 2015, and we use a difference-in-differences strategy. Gay men do not alter hours in paid work in response to legalization, but lesbian women do. On average, lesbian women reduce their annual labor supply by 6 percent in response to marriage equality. A battery of robustness checks reinforces the result. The effect of marriage equality is heterogeneous: women who have lower earnings than their partners decrease hours of work 2.5 times more than their partners. Time use data show that lesbian partners reallocate work hours primarily to care labor.

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Thanks to James Alm, Patrick Button, Kitt Carpenter, Laura Langbein, Natalia Radchenko, Andrea Weber, two referees, participants in the University of Arizona research seminar, the Eastern Economic Association Annual Meetings, and attendees of the International Association for Feminist Economics Annual Meetings for comments and suggestions.


Funding for this project came from the Innovative Research in Gender Economics competition in the Program in Gender Analysis in Economics at American University. The competition was sponsored through Open Society Foundation Award Number OR2-16-31173.

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Correspondence to Michael E. Martell.

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Hansen, M.E., Martell, M.E. & Roncolato, L. A labor of love: The impact of same-sex marriage on labor supply. Rev Econ Household 18, 265–283 (2020).

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  • Same-sex marriage
  • Labor supply
  • Time use
  • Public policy


  • J18
  • D13
  • J10