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School Progress Among Children of Same-Sex Couples

Abstract

This study uses logit regressions on a pooled sample of children from the 2012, 2013, and 2014 American Community Survey to perform a nationally representative analysis of school progress for a large sample of 4,430 children who reside with same-sex couples. Odds ratios from regressions that compare children between different-sex married couples and same-sex couples fail to show significant differences in normal school progress between households across a variety of sample compositions. Likewise, marginal effects from regressions that compare children with similar family dynamics between different-sex married couples and same-sex couples fail to predict significantly higher probabilities of grade retention for children of same-sex couples. Significantly lower grade retention rates are sometimes predicted for children of same-sex couples than for different-sex married couples, but these differences are sensitive to sample exclusions and do not indicate causal benefits to same-sex parenting.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These practices include recruiting individuals from sperm bank data sources or other types of reproduction technology providers (Bos and Van Balen 2008; Bos et al. 2007; Brewaeys et al. 1997; Chan et al. 1998a, b), internet surveys (Bos 2010; Lehmiller 2010; Power et al. 2010), LGBT events, bookstore and newspaper advertisements, word of mouth, networking, and youth groups (Bailey et al. 1995; Dundas and Kaufman 2000; Fairtlough 2008; Flaks et al. 1995; Fulcher et al. 2008; Goldberg 2007; Lehmiller 2010; Oswald et al. 2008; Wright and Perry 2006).

  2. 2.

    These studies include Wainright et al. (2004), Wainright and Patterson (2006, 2008), Fedewa and Clark (2009), Rosenfeld (2010), Regnerus (2012a, b), Allen et al. (2013, 2014), Allen (2013), and Bos et al. (2016a, b).

  3. 3.

    The three studies conducted on the same data set by Wainright and Patterson were able to identify only 6 gay and 44 lesbian households, Fedewa and Clark (2009) identified 35 same-sex families, Bos et al. (2016a) identified 32 lesbian headed households, and Bos et al. (2016b) matched 95 lesbian couples households to opposite-sex households.

  4. 4.

    Ages 11–12 and 15–16 provide the most precise information to determine whether a child has actually been held back in school.

  5. 5.

    These couples are identified by SSMC (QRELATE) variable in the 2013 and 2014 (2012) ACS.

  6. 6.

    Two nonhead of household respondents of the same sex who are married to an absent spouse are identified as a same-sex married couple if they were last married in the same year.

  7. 7.

    The last year in which the respondent and their spouse married did not match for 50 children of same-sex married couples.

  8. 8.

    For most states in this sample period, the maximum age limit to which free education must be offered is 21, thus the sample is restricted to students in school at this age limit. A few states have no set maximum age, some are lower at ages 19–20, and some let local education agencies determine their maximum age.

  9. 9.

    Of the children who reside with same-sex married couples raising two children, 62.14 % are biologically related to the householder in the 2013 ACS compared with 88.73 % in the 2012 ACS.

  10. 10.

    For the educational attainment of same-sex married couples, there is always a father and mother link as opposed to two father or two mother links. The head of the household is always linked as the father of the child and the spouse is linked as the mother, regardless of any biological relation.

  11. 11.

    Children are coded as Hispanic if they are of Hispanic origin and self-identified as other race, not elsewhere categorized (n.e.c.) in the detailed race variable. Different identification strategies were used, but none significantly altered regression results.

  12. 12.

    The percentage of adopted, foster, and stepchildren for unmarried same-sex couples is actually higher than reported given that many of these children have stepparent relationships with their biological parent’s unmarried partner. Likewise, when misreported households are dropped from the analysis, roughly 60 % of the children residing with married same-sex couples are adopted, foster, or stepchildren.

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Acknowledgments

I thank Charles Baum, Joachim Zietz, Mark Owens, Jason DeBacker, Michael Roach, seminar participants at Middle Tennessee State University, and anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Caleb S. Watkins.

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Watkins, C.S. School Progress Among Children of Same-Sex Couples. Demography 55, 799–821 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0678-3

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Keywords

  • Same-sex parents
  • Academic achievement
  • Family dynamics