Tuesday, October 08, 2013

New Study: Gay Parenting Not Good For Kids

It’s been a matter of politically correct dogma: kids of gay and lesbian parents do just was well as kids of straight married couples. So anybody with any reservations about gays having children must be some sort of evil homophobe.

But now comes a scholarly study (in Review of Economics of the Household) that shows that kids with gay and lesbian parents are at a disadvantage.

But first, note that the politically correct orthodoxy has been driven by bad social science. How good are the studies that purport to show that gay parenting is just fine? The author of the current study comments:
Unfortunately, the literature on child development in same-sex households is lacking on several grounds. First, the research is characterized by levels of advocacy, policy endorsement, and awareness of political consequences, that is disproportionate with the strength and substance of the preliminary empirical findings. Second, the literature generally utilizes measures of child and family performance that are not easily verifiable by third party replication, which vary from one study to another in ways that make comparisons difficult, and which differ substantially from measures standardly used in other family studies. But most important, almost all of the literature on same-sex parenting (which almost always means lesbian parenting) is based on some combination of weak empirical designs, small biased convenience samples, “snowballing,” and low powered tests.
The typical sample, in other words, is very small. And it typically consists of people who volunteered to be in the sample, approached through a gay community center, gay discussion board on the web, or some such.

Which leads us to a dirty little secret of the social sciences. Social scientists often study a particular issue because they have strong political opinions about the issue. Studying the gay family, in other words, has been a little cottage industry engaged in by academics who want to promote a gay political agenda. Strict canons of social science methodology, and peer review, should mitigate personal bias. But where the methodology is sloppy (as it is here) and the people doing the peer review are part of the same little cottage industry, there is little check on an ideological agenda.

The author of the new study uses a sample from the Canadian census. It is a very large “probability sample” known to be an unbiased representation of the entire Canadian population. That makes it better than any study done so far.

What does it find?

From the abstract of the article:
Here, a 20 % sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.
These results, we might add, hold up in the presence of an impressive array of statistical controls.

Of course, any statistical results can be interpreted in different ways. As the author notes of gay parent households:
. . . avenues through which these households are formed are many and complicated. . . these families often have experienced a prior divorce, previous heterosexual marriages, intentional pregnancies, co-parenting, donor insemination, adoption, and surragacy.
So it’s always possible to argue that something correlated with gay parenting, and not gay parenting itself, harms children’s chances.

And the author further observes:
An economist may be inclined to think that fathers and mothers are not perfect substitutes and that there must be some gains from a sexual division of labor in parenting. Others may suspect that children of same-sex parents are more likely to be harassed at school, and therefore, less likely to graduate. In any event, it is time to investigate the difference and reject the conventional wisdom of “no difference.”
But rejecting conventional wisdom that it so deeply ingrained in the rather narrow, politically correct worlds of academia, the educational establishment and the elite media is not easy. Especially when anybody who breathes the slightest word of dissent is going to be demonized, attacked, bullied and harassed.

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