In nearly every discussion, debate or lawsuit about gay marriage, the talk at some point turns to family values.
Do gay couples make for good parents? Will their children whether adopted, conceived with the help of a surrogate or brought in from a pre-existing relationship adjust, adapt and succeed in a world dominated by traditional families?
The answers usually depend on who's giving them, and come dressed in anecdotes and colored by bias. But Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld brings something new to the conversation: facts and figures derived from the country's largest data bank the U.S. Census.
In a study published this month in the journal Demography, Rosenfeld concludes that children being raised by same-sex couples have nearly the same educational achievement as children raised by married heterosexual couples.
By mining data from the 2000 Census, Rosenfeld was able to figure out the rates at which children in all types of families repeated a grade during elementary or middle school. According to his findings, nearly 7 percent of children raised by heterosexual married couples were held back a year, while about 9.5 percent of children living with adults identifying themselves as same-sex partners repeated a grade.
The difference between the groups pretty much vanishes when taking into account that the heterosexual couples were slightly more educated and wealthier than most gay parents, Rosenfeld said.
"The census data show that having parents who are the same gender is not in itself any disadvantage to children," he said. "Parents' income and education are the biggest indicators of a child's success. Family structure is a minor determinant."
Rosenfeld's findings have been cited by lawyers fighting Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban passed by California voters in 2008. A federal court judge recently overturned the ban, but his ruling is under appeal.
|Contact: Adam Gorlick|