Children raised by same-sex families perform better in school than children raised by a mother and a father, according to research by Deni Mazrekaj, Kristof De Witte and Sofie Cabus.
Their study, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference at the University of Warwick in April 2019, finds that children raised by same-sex families from birth outperformed children raised by different-sex families on standardised test scores at the end of primary school. Moreover, children raised by same-sex families were 6.7% more likely to graduate from high school.
What’s unique about the study is that it analyses administrative government data that include information on 1,200 children raised by same-sex families and more than a million children raised by different-sex families in the Netherlands. These children were born between 1995 and 2005 and their educational performance could be tracked until 2017. Several cohorts could also be followed through high school. Previous studies of children in same-sex families often had a small sample, of less than 100 children, or have used US Census data, in which children are observed at a single point in time.
The Netherlands is a particularly interesting country to study, as it is the first in the world to have legalised same-sex marriage: in 2001. In addition, the Dutch population is among the most supportive of same-sex couples.
The researchers find that one of the main reasons that children raised by same-sex families perform well at school is that same-sex parents are often older, wealthier and more educated than the typical different-sex parents. Same-sex couples often have to undergo expensive fertility or adoption procedures to have a child. Therefore, they tend to be very motivated and have a high socio-economic status.
Previous academic research has found that higher socio-economic status of parents positively influences their children’s school outcomes. Once the researchers control for income and wealth, the gap in test scores between children raised by same-sex families and children raised by different-sex families reduces by half, but it still remains significantly positive.
Most previous research has found that children raised by same-sex families perform just as well as children raised by different-sex families, although some studies have found negative effects. But unlike the new study, these previous studies could not account for the independent negative effect of divorce on school outcomes. Children often reside in same-sex families after a divorce of a homosexual parent with a heterosexual partner.
The new study observes whether children raised by same-sex families experienced a previous divorce of their parents. Once the researchers control for divorce, they still find that children raised by same-sex families excel in school.
‘School Outcomes of Children Raised by Same-Sex Families: Evidence from Administrative Panel Data’ by Deni Mazrekaj, Kristof De Witte and Sofie Cabus, KU Leuven, Belgium.