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Pink work: Same-sex marriage, employment and discrimination (Sansone, 2019)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Sansone, D. (2019). Pink work: Same-sex marriage, employment and discrimination. Journal of Public Economics, 180, 104086.

Highlights

  • The study's objective was to examine the impact of same-sex marriage legalization on employment outcomes of individuals in same-sex couples. 

  • The study uses a non-experimental difference-in-difference design that compares employment rates for same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage was legalized to same-sex couples in states that had not legalized same-sex marriage.  The author uses data from the American Community Survey (ACS) between 2008 and 2016.  

  • The study found that same-sex marriage legalization increased employment and labor force participation rates among same-sex couples.   

  • This study receives a moderate evidence rating.  This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the legalization of same-sex marriage, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Same-sex marriage legalization

Features of the Intervention

The campaign for marriage equality began in the United States in the 1970s. States started making substantial steps towards legalization in the early 2000s, including court rulings and laws allowing same-sex marriage, domestic partnership, and civil unions,. In 2015, the U.S Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S. 

Same-sex marriage legalization was adopted by all states, plus the District of Columbia, at different times between 2008 and 2016, with the exception of Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriage prior to 2008. 

Features of the Study

The study uses a non-experimental difference-in-difference design that compares employment rates for same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage was legalized to employment rates for same-sex couples in states that had not legalized same-sex marriage.  The study uses the variation in the timing of when same-sex marriage was legalized in states across the U.S. to compare employment rates over time. Study authors use household data from the ACS to identify same-sex couples over time in states that legalized same-sex marriage (treatment) with same-sex couples living in states that had not legalized same-sex marriage (comparison). The sample includes 28,118 male same-sex couple observations, 29,796 female same-sex couple observations, and 57,914 male and female comparison observations. Observations are clustered at the state level. The analysis focuses on household heads aged between 18 and 65 and their married or unmarried partners. Same-sex couples were able to get married when their state of residence legalized same-sex marriage. 

Study Sites

The sample includes same-sex couples in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. 

Findings

Employment 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly increased employment rates for all same-sex couples by 2.4 percentage points, with roughly the same significant increase for male same-sex couples and female same-sex couples. 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly increased the total number of hours worked for all same-sex couples by 1.3 hours. 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly increased the likelihood that both members of the household worked at least 40 hours per week by 3 percentage points. 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly increased the likelihood that both members of the household worked at least 30 hours per week by 2.6 percentage points. 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly decreased the absolute value of the difference in hours worked weekly by the household head and their partner by 0.9 hours 

  • The study found legalization of same-sex marriage statistically significantly increased labor force participation for all same sex couples by 2.2 percentage points.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors note that ACS data is known to have misclassification errors around individuals incorrectly reporting their sex. Authors use data from 2008 onward, after the U.S. Census Bureau implemented changes to address misclassification errors, however, there is still some potential for errors in self-reported data. The study also does not provide information on LGBT individuals without a same-sex partner, same-sex couples not living together, or bisexual individuals living with a different-sex partner. The study does not investigate the impact of same-sex marriage on other members of the LGBT community. 

Causal Evidence Rating

This study receives a moderate evidence rating. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to same-sex marriage legalization, and not to other factors. 

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2022