NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Forsaking All Others? The Effects of "Gay Marriage" on Risky Sex

Thomas S. Dee

NBER Working Paper No. 11327
Issued in May 2005
NBER Program(s):   HC

One of the conjectured benefits of establishing the legal recognition of samesex partnerships is that it would promote a culture of responsibility and commitment among homosexuals. A specific implication of this claim is that "gay marriage" will reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STI). In this study, I present a simple 2-period model, which provides a framework for discussing the ways in which gay marriage might reduce (or increase) the prevalence of STI. Then, I present reduced-form empirical evidence on whether gay marriage has actually reduced STI rates. These evaluations are based on country-level panel data from Europe, where nations began introducing national recognition of same-sex partnerships in 1989. The results suggest that these gay-marriage laws led to statistically significant reductions in syphilis rates. However, these effects were smaller and statistically imprecise with respect to gonorrhea and HIV.

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Published: Dee, Thomas. “Forsaking All Others? The Effects of Same-Sex Partnership Laws on Risky Sex.” Economic Journal 118, 530 (July 2008): 1055-1078.

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