AMHERST, MA -February 9 - Census data shows that thousands of same-sex couples in Massachusetts need the economic protections of legal marriage, according to a study by a team of University of Massachusetts economists. The study, published today by the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (IGLSS), finds that more than 8,000 children in Massachusetts are being raised by a same-sex couple.
"Legal marriage provides many important rights and responsibilities for couples, especially when they are raising children,"said co-author M. V. Lee Badgett, associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and research director of IGLSS. "One in four same-sex couples in Massachusetts is raising a child, and those families are more economically vulnerable than married couples."
The study found that same-sex couples with children have 10% lower household incomes than married parents. That financial inequality is widened because same-sex partners do not have access to the private and public benefits of marriage.
The authors also found that 11% of same-sex couples are interracial, compared with only 5% of married couples. Individuals in same-sex couples were more likely to be African American or Hispanic than married people, as well.
"Same-sex couples live in every county and contribute to our state's diversity in many ways," noted another co-author, Michael Ash. "Almost half of people in same-sex couples have a bachelor's or graduate degree, and most work in the private sector. Same-sex couples are important contributors to our economy and communities."
Other research about same-sex couples shows that they indirectly contribute to economic growth by signifying a climate of tolerance.
"Businesspeople and policymakers should worry that a referendum campaign to ban marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts could create a climate of divisiveness and intolerance. We've seen that happen during other states' anti-gay referenda, and it could happen here, too," warns IGLSS Acting Executive Director Glenda Russell.
The report predicts that approximately 8500 same-sex couples who live in Massachusetts will marry over the next few years. Some new spouses might become eligible for health care benefits through their spouse's employer. But the report also shows that the vast majority of Massachusetts businesses will have no additional costs for covering new spouses who will become eligible for health care benefits.
The other report co-authors are Nancy Folbre and Lisa Saunders of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Randy Albelda from the department of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston.