, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 477–501 | Cite as

Same-Sex Parents and Children’s School Progress: An Association That Disappeared Over Time

  • Diederik BoertienEmail author
  • Fabrizio Bernardi


Research is divided as to whether children living in same-sex parent families achieve different outcomes compared with their peers. In this article, we improve on earlier estimates of such differences and subsequently study whether and why the association between parental union sex composition and children’s school progress changed over time. Data from the American Community Survey waves 2008–2015 (N = 1,952,490 including 7,792 children living with a same-sex couple) indicate that children living with same-sex couples were historically more likely to be behind in school but that this association disappeared over time. Changes in socioeconomic characteristics of same-sex couples played a minor role. In 2008, it was only in areas with unfavorable laws and attitudes toward same-sex couples that children living with same-sex couples were more likely to be behind in school. This was especially the case for adopted children. In more recent periods, no effect of parental union sex composition on school progress is observed within any area or among any group studied. Based on where and when these changes took place, it is suggested that changing attitudes toward same-sex couples might have played an important role in equalizing school progress across groups.


Child outcomes Same-sex couples Family Social stratification Adoption 



We thank Eline Alexandra van Staveren for her research assistance and Katy Morris, Léa Pessin, Jonathan Hersh, and Sander Wagner; those present at our session at the 2017 annual meeting of the Population Association of America, and in particular, discussant Daniel Schneider; as well as those who attended the CREST Sociology Lab Seminar for their insights and comments on previous versions of this article. Diederik Boertien acknowledges research funding from the Beatriu de Pinos program of the Generalitat de Catalunya (2016-BP-00121) as well as the EQUALIZE project led by Iñaki Permanyer (ERC-2014-STG-grant agreement No 637768).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics, Carrer de Ca n’Altayó, Edifici E2, Universitat Autonoma BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Department of Political and Social SciencesEuropean University InstituteSan DomenicoItaly

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