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The Economics of Lesbian and Gay Families

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  • Dan A. Black
  • Seth G. Sanders
  • Lowell J. Taylor

Abstract

In this essay, we provide some statistics about the gay and lesbian population in the United States, and ask if analysis based on economic reasoning can provide insight into the family outcomes we observe. We do not start with a hypothesis of innate differences in preferences, but instead seek to understand how differences in constraints systematically alter incentives faced by gay, lesbian, and heterosexual people. Our work reinforces a central theme of Gary Becker's: that family life and economic life are interwoven. Decisions within families -- including couples' decisions to commit to one another, divorce, bear children, or adopt children -- are intrinsically connected to other economic decisions, including human capital accumulation, labor supply, occupational choice, consumption, and decisions about where to live. We provide evidence addressing number of questions: Do differing biological constraints faced by gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples affect choices over children? Do differences in fertility (or anticipated fertility), again owing to differences in constraints, influence where people live? Do same-sex couples have patterns of household specialization that differ in predictable fashion from heterosexual couples?

Suggested Citation

  • Dan A. Black & Seth G. Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2007. "The Economics of Lesbian and Gay Families," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 53-70, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:21:y:2007:i:2:p:53-70
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.21.2.53
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.21.2.53
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kahn Matthew E., 1995. "A Revealed Preference Approach to Ranking City Quality of Life," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 221-235, September.
    2. Dan A. Black & Amelia M. Haviland & Seth G. Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2008. "Gender Wage Disparities among the Highly Educated," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 630-659.
    3. Dan Black & Gary Gates & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 2000. "Demographics of the gay and lesbian population in the United States: Evidence from available systematic data sources," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(2), pages 139-154, May.
    4. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-1278, December.
    5. Black, Dan & Gates, Gary & Sanders, Seth & Taylor, Lowell, 2002. "Why Do Gay Men Live in San Francisco?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 54-76, January.
    6. Lisa Jepsen & Christopher Jepsen, 2002. "An empirical analysis of the matching patterns of same-sex and opposite-sex couples," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(3), pages 435-453, August.
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