Dodgy social science in the Utah same-sex marriage case

graduationIn their recent submissions to a federal court judge who’s being asked to mandate same-sex marriage in Utah, the plaintiffs included a declaration from a sociologist, Charlotte Patterson, who commonly weighs in on litigation with the message that mothers and fathers are interchangeable. The problem, of course, is that there are now studies with larger sample sizes and employing better methodologies than have been conducted in the past which indicate there are real differences in outcomes for children raised by married mothers and fathers compared to those raised by same-sex couples.

For instance, a very recent Canadian study that suggested poorer educational outcomes for the latter. The plaintiffs’ expert tries to minimize this study.

We asked the author of the Canadian study, Dr. Douglas Allen of Simon Fraser University, for his response to the treatment of his work in the “expert” affidavit. Read on for his response:

In a recent declaration in Kitchen v. Herbert, Charlotte Patterson has stated the following:

“A new study by Allen (“High school graduation rates among children of same-sex households”, in Review Econ. Household, 2013), presents data that also purport to discredit the consensus, but also fail to do so. This study examined high school graduation rates among young adults in Canada, and reported that those who described at least one parent as gay or lesbian had lower rates of high school graduation than did their peers with continuously married heterosexual parents. This comparison is not relevant here, however, because almost all the parents characterized as gay or lesbian had also undergone divorce or separation, which is a known correlate of school problems, whereas other parents were more likely to be continuously married. Thus, the main conclusion that would appear to be warranted on the basis of Allen’s data is that young adults whose biological parents divorce or separate are also likely to report lower educational attainment than their peers with continuously married parents. This conclusion is already well-established, and it has nothing to do with parental sexual orientation. ”

There are several errors in this statement.

First, the 2006 Canada census has couples identify their type of relationship.  Hence, the paper I wrote uses data from gay and lesbian couples only. It is not the case that “at least one parent [is] gay or lesbian”.

Second, it is not the case that “almost all the parents characterized as gay or lesbian had also undergone divorce or separation.”  A large number had, but not “almost all.”

Third, and most importantly, the conclusion is incorrect.  She states that because the parents were divorced this explains the low graduation rates.   However, one of the contributions of my paper was to control for marital status (as opposed to Rosenfeld (2010) who did not).  Hence, if a parent was divorced or separated, this was controlled for in the estimations.  A reader who looks at columns (2) vs (3) in Table 5, or columns (1) v. (2) or columns (3) v. (4) in Table 6 of the paper, is seeing the effect of controlling for parental divorce and separation.  It is true, that not controlling for marital history reduces the odds of graduation for children of same sex couples, but when marital status is controlled for the odds of graduation of these children is still low.  The paper only discusses results based on the full control regressions.

Hence, the claim made by Prof. Patterson is false, and one has to wonder if she actually read the paper.

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5 Responses to Dodgy social science in the Utah same-sex marriage case

  1. Adison says:

    Welcome to the world of social science. First, a link between high school graduation and same sex parenting does not state its cause, which may be based in bullying or many other very similar causes strongly related to LGBT households. Second there are many flaws with this study as there are with a lot of the studies around same sex parenting. Take a different look at it. I would ask anyone who dislikes the idea of a marriage between two people of the same sex to answer one question, if you are married why did you marry your spouse? Must people wont say these days that it is because they looked like they had good birthing hips. they were thinking about the person across from them and spending the rest of their life with them. Wedding traditions come from many backgrounds histories traditions and beliefs. Marriage is not just a Christian thing, it is not just a religious thing and it is not just a man and wife thing. Many argue that gay marriage is a redefinition of marriage, I simply say marriage has been defined and redefined so many times and that I would hope that people realize that romantic relationship being a basis for a marriage is nothing new and is probably the most common factor when you choose your partner. Do I love them? Can I live with them? Children are a part of that conversation but it is not required. Please don’t deny people a legal commitment to be faithful to their partner for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as they both shall live because you find it icky.

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  3. fono says:

    I think people need to be very honest and ask why do we see this issue as one of two adults when children and their welfare are central here. the rights of the child are first and foremost here. Even in very liberal European countries many, and often most people see same-sex parenting as a form of discrimination on the child. Surveys have shown this. Furthermore marriage should always be about children. The erosion of this association has had huge social repercussions for western society. This is not a religious conclusion, its cross-cultural.

  4. The Adventurer says:

    Since references to prayer and vows come into the wedding vows, you will find that in early Rome vows were taken, before God. These were not mere promises between the husband and wife, but a solemn vow made and promised to God.

    This would indicate the origins of marriage are, in fact based in belief and faith in God.

    The above reference to “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as they both shall live” by Adison, is based in that solemn vow.

    The vow clearly calls for a husband and wife. The only changes to these utterances have been in the last 20 years.

    Those would be years labeled 1994 through 2014. If you use the Annos Domini, you are identifying the birth of Jesus Christ. Until the last 2 decades, when some archeologists who are not Christians, chose to refer to BC (before Christ) as BCE “before the common era” and AD as CE the common era.

    These things coincide with attributing the creation to big bang and many other theories that exonerate unbelievers from realizing any potential hazard for their lack of faith in God.

    I just don’t believe you can have it both ways. One cannot claim that marriage has changed over the years, in the mainstream of society, then turn around and use the very marriage vows that are taken from various scriptures in the Holy Bible, and use them for another purpose all together.

    What would it sound like if you sing the melody to Stairway to Heaven to the music of The Hallelujah Chorus.

    If same sex couples, (20 years ago they were called gay, lesbian, and other not so kind labels, 40 years ago they were know as “homo’s and queers”) want to find a way to take advantage of the benefits afforded by the Federal U.S. Government, as those who have struggled through all their years of staying together and loving each other under the laws of spirituality that created marriage centuries ago, fine, let them move the government to create an entity for them. You just can’t call it marriage. Find your own Institutional Nomenclature if you’re so creative! Civil Union seems like a good name! Change the laws, not definitions of century old traditions. In centuries you will have traditions of your own, if the practice doesn’t lead to extinction. Where do the future Civil Unionists come from if they cannot procreate?

    Oh yeah, adopting children from unfortunate, heterosexual young unwed mothers (they’re having sex out of wedlock because marriage has become nothing more than a tax break, an employee benefit or a civil right to obtain these things), paying to have a Surrogate mom or dad have a child for you because God didn’t give men or women the ability to have children one without the other.

    That God was so traditional . . . no view of the future! Had He been able to see where mankind was going, he would have provided for this, so he must not exist, right.

    Just read about Sodom and Gomorrah, he provided for it, he destroyed it.

    Thankfully, the Jesus whom we believers love and trust in, has solved that problem, faced by the city of ultimate sin and judgement.

    If you see this as judgement on my part, I’m sorry you can’t see deeper into the infallible history of the Bible, supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    We all must love one another in an Agape sense of the word.

    I’m just saying that marriage is part of the Christian Doctrine. It is also used by other religions. For those who believe in the AD of things, (you use the date of his birth every time you write a check, sign a contract, or tell someone the day and year) it’s plagiaristic to take the word of marriage, change the definition and use it how you want, and that is a violation of my constitutional rights. 4 and 14.

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