Does Marriage Equality Lead to Higher Income (even for opposite-sexers)?

Oh, time to panic. Thomson Reuters is the latest company to come out against Minnesota’s proposed marriage amendment:

We believe the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, if passed, would limit our ability to recruit and retain top talent. For this reason, we do not believe that the Amendment would be good for Thomson Reuters or the business community in the state.

Maggie Gallagher and NOM have pounced on this, presumably because they know more about running a business than the people who run businesses, and they rebut Reuters with:

…nine out of ten of the top states for business (according to a new CNBC ranking) have marriage amendments [banning same-sex marriage].

I’ve previously taken a swipe at NOM’s ludicrous and simplistic analysis. Business climate depends on a myriad of factors (tax policy? cheap labor?) and no one claims that marriage equality alone will wholly determine a state’s ranking. I even pointed out that 4 of the 5 healthiest states recognize same-sex marriage — which, if you credit this sort of flawed analysis, should make our opponents think twice before crying out that we’re promoting an unhealthy homosexual lifestyle.

But Maggie has inexplicably ignored my advice (I’m hurt, Maggie, hurt) and she keeps promoting this ridiculous proof-by-ranking analysis. So I decided to do a little ranking of my own.

Wikipedia has categorized the 50 states according to their marriage laws. I compared those groups based on:

Guess how those rankings turned out:

I swear, those were the only three measures I checked. The results were remarkably consistent and the conclusion is obvious: same-sex marriage increases income and lowers poverty.

Wait — no, no, no, no, no. It doesn’t say that at all. Real life is much more complicated, and correlation is not causation. Probably what’s going on here is that factors (like education) which lead to higher income are also correlated with support for marriage equality. Just as opposition to marriage equality is correlated with the same conservative demographic that creates a pro-business economic climate.

Think of it like this: Men are more likely than women to arm wrestle drunk and to get testicular cancer. That doesn’t mean drunk arm wrestling causes testicular cancer, just that it’s correlated with it.

But NOM isn’t going to make fine logical distinctions like that. Or even broad ones. And they’re certainly not going to give up their silly ranking argument. So I have to wonder: how will they respond to this? I’d love to hear NOM’s steel-trap brainiacs: “Uh, we said marriage amendments are good for businesses, not for people. Oh, and businesses are people. So there!

But that’s a pipe dream. We’d never hear anything so honest from NOM.

Note: To get these figures, I simply averaged the numbers for each group of states, without weighting the states by population. For the purposes of this faux-analysis, the number of people in each state did not matter, or any other factor except each state’s marriage law.


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3 comments to Does Marriage Equality Lead to Higher Income (even for opposite-sexers)?

  • 1
    Simon says:

    You need to add the cost of living ranking per state at the minimum. It is not what you make that is the most important, it is what’s left and the overall picture like quality of life, taxes and so many other factors. 
    Among the top five states for growth from 2002-2009, four out of the five (UT, HI, TX, NV) have passed marriage protection amendments, and the fifth, Wyoming, has tried to get one through their legislature.

    The US Chamber of Commerce also shows that in terms of overall growth the top three of five states have marriage amendments, one has a ballot initiative this fall, none have same-sex marriage.

    The US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis looked at states and ranked them for per capita personal income growth from 1999-2009. Eight of the top ten states for growing personal income have passed marriage protection amendments. The other two are trying to do so. None have same-sex marriage or civil unions.

    CEO Magazine conducted a survey in 2009 of 543 Chief Executive Officers and asked them to rank the best and worst states for business and job growth. Their answer for best business and job growth states: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. All five have passed marriage protection amendments. At the bottom for having the worst business environment were California, New York, Michigan, New Jersey and at the very bottom, Massachusetts, the first state to allow the unraveling of marriage. Four of these five worst states are arguably the most pro-gay agenda or pro-gay marriage states in the nation.

    This February, Kiplinger Financial Magazine named the top ten states they predicted for most job growth in 2012. Every one of the top five have passed marriage amendments. Seven of the top ten have marriage amendments, and an eighth has a ballot initiative this fall, and number nine, (Indiana) is in the process of trying to let voters decide if they want to preserve marriage between a man and a woman so the next generation has the best shot at a mom and a dad in the home.

    There is also a new study by CNBC called “America’s Top States for Doing Business” that uses input from the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness finding that nine of the top ten business friendly states have marriage protection amendments in their constitution. None have same-sex marriage. In fact, only one state with same-sex marriage (Iowa) even breaks into the top half (25) of the business friendly state rankings. Those states with same sex marriage generally all fall toward the bottom of the business performance data.

    Lastly, this May, Forbes Magazine released their list of top job growth rates in large US cities. The top five, and nine of the top ten “best large cities for jobs” were in states where voters had approved marriage protection amendments. The same was true for “mid-sized” cities with the best job growth. The top five, and eight out of the top ten, of Forbes “best mid-sized cities for jobs” are in states with marriage protection amendments. Seven out of 10 of Forbes’ “best small cities for jobs” are in states with marriage protection amendments.


  • 2
    robtish says:

    Simon, do you care to address the substance of the article, or are you content to continue confusing correlation with causation? (And if you are content to do so, are you going to spread the word about marriage equality and people’s health?)

    Seriously, I have to say it’s dispiriting to see someone put so much effort into a reply that so thoroughly avoids addressing the key point.

  • 3
    Christine says:

    I really thought that response was a joke at first. I mean, it IS really funny… you know, if you get past how sad it is. Could you have invented a better response to highlight the complete incompetence of your critics in using statistics? I doubt it.

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