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Do Laws Shape Attitudes? : Evidence from Same-Sex Relationship Recognition Policies in Europe


  • Aksoy, Cevat G.
  • Carpenter, Christopher S.
  • de Haas, Ralph

    (Tilburg University, Center For Economic Research)

  • Tran, Kevin


Understanding whether laws shape or simply reflect citizens' attitudes is important but empirically difficult. We provide new evidence on this question by studying the relationship between legal same-sex relationship recognition policies (SSRRPs) and attitudes toward sexual minorities in Europe. Using data from the European Social Surveys covering 2002-2016 and exploiting variation in the timing of SSRRPs across countries, we show that legal relationship recognition is associated with statistically significant improvements in attitudes toward sexual minorities. These effects are widespread across demographic groups, emerge only after the policies are adopted, and are not observed for views on other social issues. Our results suggest that laws can exert a powerful influence in shaping societal attitudes.
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  • Aksoy, Cevat G. & Carpenter, Christopher S. & de Haas, Ralph & Tran, Kevin, 2018. "Do Laws Shape Attitudes? : Evidence from Same-Sex Relationship Recognition Policies in Europe," Discussion Paper 2018-028, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:tiu:tiucen:50ed62f2-360d-42f9-85c1-04e43cdf0976

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Shuai Chen & Jan van Ours, 2021. "Mental Health Effects of Same-Sex Marriage Legalization," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 21-003/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Roberto Galbiati & Emeric Henry & Nicolas Jacquemet & Max Lobeck, 2021. "How laws affect the perception of norms: Empirical evidence from the lockdown," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(9), pages 1-14, September.
    3. Sansone, Dario, 2019. "Pink work: Same-sex marriage, employment and discrimination," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 180(C).
    4. Hofmarcher, Thomas & Plug, Erik, 2021. "Specialization in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples," IZA Discussion Papers 14709, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Billur Aksoy & Ian Chadd & Boon Han Koh, 2021. "(Anticipated) Discrimination against Sexual Minorities in Prosocial Domains," University of East Anglia School of Economics Working Paper Series 2021-08, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    6. Chen, Shuai & van Ours, Jan C., 2020. "Symbolism matters: The effect of same-sex marriage legalization on partnership stability," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 44-58.
    7. Fernández, Raquel & Parsa, Sahar & Viarengo, Martina, 2019. "Coming Out in America: AIDS, Politics, and Cultural Change," IZA Discussion Papers 12360, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Casoria, Fortuna & Galeotti, Fabio & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2021. "Perceived social norm and behavior quickly adjusted to legal changes during the COVID-19 pandemic," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 54-65.
    9. Jonas Jessen, 2021. "Culture, Children and Couple Gender Inequality," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1957, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    10. Avner Seror & Rohit Ticku, 2021. "Legalized Same-Sex Marriage and Coming Out in America: Evidence from Catholic Seminaries," Working Papers 21-07, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    11. Zhorayev, Olzhas, 2020. "Determinants of Trust in Police: A Cross-National Analysis," MPRA Paper 109068, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Tom Lane & Daniele Nosenzo, 2019. "Law and Norms: Empirical Evidence," Discussion Papers 2019-08, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    13. Bates Nancy & Steinmetz Stephanie & Fischer Mirjam, 2019. "Preface," Journal of Official Statistics, Sciendo, vol. 35(4), pages 699-707, December.
    14. Aksoy, Cevat Giray & Ganslmeier, Michael & Poutvaara, Panu, 2020. "Public Attention and Policy Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic," IZA Discussion Papers 13427, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Arno Apffelstaedt & Jana Freundt & Christoph Oslislo, 2021. "Social Norms and Elections: How Elected Rules Can Make Behavior (In)Appropriate," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 068, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    16. Jeffords, Chris, 2021. "On the relationship between constitutional environmental human rights and sustainable development outcomes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 186(C).
    17. D. Mark Anderson & Kyutaro Matsuzawa & Joseph J. Sabia, 2019. "Marriage Equality Laws and Youth Suicidal Behaviors," NBER Working Papers 26364, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Anderson, D. Mark & Matsuzawa, Kyutaro & Sabia, Joseph J., 2019. "Marriage Equality Laws and Youth Mental Health," IZA Discussion Papers 12819, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    19. Christopher S. Carpenter & Samuel T. Eppink & Gilbert Gonzales & Tara McKay, 2021. "Effects of Access to Legal Same‐Sex Marriage on Marriage and Health," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 40(2), pages 376-411, March.
    20. Gouveia, Filipe & Nilsson, Therese & Berggren, Niclas, 2020. "Religiosity and discrimination against same-sex couples: The case of Portugal's rental market," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C).

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    More about this item


    Public Opinion; same-sex relationship recognition policies; LGBT attitudes;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F5 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law

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