What are some of the economic arguments for same-sex or gender-neutral marriage (GNM)?

Which arguments have merit, don't have merit or have yet to be decided/tested?

For example, it is hypothesized that 'Legalising gay marriage could give the economy a \$1 billion boost', at least in Australia. Also, apparently, 'Gay marriage boosts NYC's economy by $259 million in first year'. Will such benefits hold elsewhere?

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    $\begingroup$ I am not well versed in the issue of gay marriage as an economic argument. It's more of an argument on ethics. The wedding industry would certainly boom (assuming people don't boycott marriage). I wont put in an answer because I've not read anything about it and it doesn't have a simple economic answer. That said, I am pretty confident the overall effect on the economy would be neutral. $\endgroup$ – Jamzy Jul 29 '15 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamzy 'I am pretty confident the overall effect on the economy would be neutral.' --> Because of the amount paid for weddings will be offset by the amount paid for marital benefits, or what? The links in OP may suggest o/w $\endgroup$ – BCLC Jul 29 '15 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ How about because what you don't spend on weddings you spend on something else? Of course if GNM is only legal some states those may benefit by attracting spending from other states. To show that there is an overall positive effect you would have to show that GNM increases spending propensity. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 29 '15 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ @denesp Why would couples who plan to get married but can't spend on something else? They will go elsewhere to get married. I think states can benefit on couples spending on wedding planning, after parties and of course ADOPTING CHILDREN. Society has rich homosexual parents adopting poor children it seems. If so, a child who would have been a farmer or cab driver can be an engineer or doctor. How is that not a worthy investment? Your argument seems to be saying states need less marriages. I think homosexual couples can help with overpopulation problems as well $\endgroup$ – BCLC Jul 30 '15 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @BCLC I don't understand the first two sentences of your comment. What do you mean can't spend on something else? They do not live in a market economy? And is going somewhere else a reference to the same idea in my comment? My argument dealt with direct economic benefits of marriage, just like all your sources. Adopting children is probably a great investment though I did not read anything on the economics of it. I also find it is a totally separate question that has little to do with GNM as depending on the law some civil unions can also adopt children. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 30 '15 at 9:09

tl,dr: I don't see an economic argument for GN marriage, or marriage in general what-so-ever.

Frictionless environment

All spending on marriage, are nothing more than consumption goods. There is no reason to believe that marriage-related spending have a higher Keynesian multiplier than other consumption categories.

As long as this is the case, as @denesp argues, "money spent on marriage" is money that would instead be spend on different consumption goods. Legalizing marriages would be a boost to the economy, and useful in crises and slumps - but again, by Keynesian logic, the same would be true for burying money in the ground. There is no reason it has to be marriage specifically.


However, the real world is no frictionless environment.

  • To the extent that there are different tax rates for married couples, which set up incentives for working more, increasing the size of the married population may increase total output. But then again, the welfare improving solution is not to increase the share of married couples, but removing tax benefits for married couples.
  • There may be "efficiency gains" from being married. This is the only possible "real" economic argument: If, being married, and having a state-legalized marriage contract makes people very happy and productive workers, increasing the size of the married population will increase TFP. However, this is a very big if, and I am not aware of research supporting this. In contrast, happiness research seems to indicate that the impact of positive or negative events fades away quickly, and an invididuals "happiness" moves back to average levels quite quickly, even in case of losing a leg (Brickman et al, 1978; ungated)
  • $\begingroup$ Marriage is a consumption good? $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 30 '15 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ @denesp Haven't you heard the term "consuming your marriage"? I've slightly changed that sentence. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jul 30 '15 at 12:02
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    $\begingroup$ (I think you mean consummating the marriage.) $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 30 '15 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ @BCLC They are misleading to the extent that they imply that the money spent on marriage would else wise not be spent. But then again, they dont ask economists, but instead the "national director of Australian Marriage Equality", so they didn't expect an unbiased opinion to begin with. Regarding adoption, you would have to make the case that increases in adoption increase total productivity / output somehow, and I think that while on the individual level it may matter a lot - economically - whether one gets adopted or not, I doubt you can see these effects at the macro level. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jul 30 '15 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @BCLC yes, partly. That paragraph actually has two points, of which one is the one in my paragraph. The other one is not really welfare enhancing: If state A is pro-gay-marriage, and state B is against that, then gay workers rather work in state A, and not in state B. Firms in state B now want to change the law to attract these workers. However, then they remove these workers from state A - which is a null-sum-game in welfare terms. The part of the argument that does not touch relocating workers is the one in my last paragraph. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Oct 14 '15 at 6:14

Read the economics textbook by Gary Becker. He does not deal with NG marriage but he offers the first economic theory of marriage. Also, read "A Treatise on the Family: Enlarged Edition", 441 pages, Gary S. Becker, Harvard University Press.

  • $\begingroup$ Why did this get a downvote? $\endgroup$ – BCLC Jul 30 '15 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Abraham. Can you at least summarize the arguments briefly? Are they saying something like states need less marriages or something? $\endgroup$ – BCLC Jul 30 '15 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not perfectly sure, but arent his arguments orthogonal to the legal status of the couple? Isnt he rather offering a "first economic theory of partnership", if you will? $\endgroup$ – FooBar Jul 30 '15 at 12:03

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