A new Canadian study challenges the mainstream insistence that children living with same-sex couples are “no different” than children living with married, heterosexual couples. Using a large, nationally representative dataset, Canadian economist Douglas Allen found that young adult children of same-sex couples are 35 percent less likely to graduate from high school as young adult children of heterosexual married couples.
The study, published this month in the Review of the Economics of the Household, looked at a 20 percent sample of the 2006 Canadian census, which asked respondents to note whether they were raised by a lesbian couple, a gay couple, a married opposite-sex couple, a common law couple, a single mother, or a single father. The Canadian data is easier to interpret than similar U.S.-based studies because Canadian respondents self-report the information. Allen then compared high school graduation rates of male and female young adults raised in each of those households
The study revealed striking differences. When compared to other groups, the children of lesbian couples have the lowest graduation rates, followed by children of common law couples, gay couples, single mothers, and single fathers, whose rates were all similar. Children of married opposite-sex couples had higher graduation rates than any other group. In looking at the child’s gender, Allen found that girls from same-sex households have particularly low graduation rates, with girls from a gay households 85 percent less likely to graduate from high school as girls from heterosexual married households.
In the past 15 years, researchers have published more than 50 empirical studies looking at the effects of same-sex parenting on children, with most concluding that there is “no difference” in outcomes. But Allen decried much of the research as biased and unscientific.
He applauded Mark Regnerus, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, for his 2012 study, published in the Social Science Journal, which found differences between children who grow up in same-sex and traditional households. The study caused controversy with gay activist groups because it revealed that children of same-sex couples are more likely to be on public assistance, commit a crime, report being forced to have sex, and struggle with depression than children of intact biological families.
“It took almost 40 years for academics to figure out the effect of no-fault divorce on divorce rates (not to mention all the other areas of life no-fault divorce influenced),” Allen wrote in an article supporting Regnerus. “With same-sex marriage and parenting, the issues are much more profound and more difficult to measure. Rushing the work or, worse, pushing research claims beyond what the studies justify, is bad social policy.”
Allen’s recent study does what many studies before it have not been unable to do. It takes a large, random, nationally representative dataset and compares very specific factors across each category. His conclusions may encourage a new wave of sociological research defending traditional parenting as the best option for kids.