Gay Marriage and the Effect on Heterosexual Marriage

Updated: December 13, 2012

This post has had some minor edits to remove the impression I gave that I was suggesting I had proved causation between the introduction of same-sex marriage and the drop in other-sex marriage.

Some fascinating figures from Spain where gay marriage has been legal since 2005, from the latest Affinity bulletin.

The table shows the number of same-sex and other sex marriages from 2000 onwards. 2005 was the year that gay marriage was introduced (mid-year).

Year Same-Sex Marriages Other-Sex Marriages
2000 194,022
2001 201,579
2002 203,453
2003 208,146
2004 216,149
2005 1,275 211,025
2006 4,574 207,244
2007 3,250 200,447
2008 3,549 193,064
2009 3,412 172,540
2010 3,583 167,232
2011 3,880 159,205

Now, just looking at the figures it’s very clear that the number of other-sex marriages drops dramatically after 2005, but we know enough about stats here to realise that what we need to do is to qualify whether that is a significant drop or not. The way we do that is to build two quick models – one for the figures from 2000 to 2004 and one for 2006 to 2011. Using those two models we can see if there is a significant difference between the two rates in the two periods being compared. Remember, “significant” means that we are at least 95% certain that the trends we are looking at are real and not just random.

So, the two models. Firstly the 2000 to 2004 model.

Year Coefficient 5082.1
P-Value 0.003084
Upper 95% Bound 6918
Lower 95% Bound 3245

Let’s explain that. A simple regression shows that the line of best fit has a coefficient of 5,082. This means that during the period 2000 to 2004, on average the number of other-sex marriages increased by 5,082 per year. We are 95% certain that the true value of the long term trend is somewhere between 3,245 and 6,918 which tells us that we are pretty well certain that there was an upward annual trend in other-sex marriages during those years.

It’s worth pointing out that we can assess the 95% certainty from the P-value. If this is less than or equal to 0.05 (i.e. 95%) then we say that the coefficient is significant. If the p-value had been 0.05 the lower 95% bound would have been 0.

Right, now the 2006 to 2011 model (we leave 2005 out because it is the year of transition with same-sex marriages from July onwards).

Year Coefficient -10296.1
P-Value 0.000397
Upper 95% Bound -7682
Lower 95% Bound -12910

You can probably work out what’s going on. Our coefficient is now -10,296 telling us that on average the number of other-sex marriages dropped by that amount every year. The upper and lower values of the 95% significance bounds indicate that this is a certain downward trend. Other-sex marriages have definitely been dropping year on year since the introduction of same-sex marriage.

What we can be certain of is that since the introduction of same-sex marriage the rate of other-sex marriage in Spain changed from a clear growth rate to a clear declining rate. Although the golden rule is that correlation does not equal causation, it’s pretty clear that there is a direct link between the two events. Let’s see if we can prove it statistically.

I thought first that it might be interesting to see if there was a direct link to the number of same-sex marriages and the number of other-sex marriages. I ran another regression on the 2006 to 2011 dataset, bringing in Year and same-sex marriage numbers as predictors of other-sex marriages.

Year Coefficient -10372
Year P-Value 0.00271
Same-Sex Marriage Coefficient -1.026
Same-Sex Marriage P-Value 0.832

Once again Year gives us a significant coefficient. Same-Sex Marriage numbers give us a negative coefficient of -1.026 (indicating that for every same-sex marriage there is a reduction of one in the number of other-sex marriages) but the P-Value is 0.832, way way higher than 0.05. Because of this we reject the idea that the number of same-sex marriages in a particular year affects the number of other-sex marriages. For the record I also ran this regression as a step-wise to see if the numbers of same-sex marriages added any significant information once the year coefficient was calculated – the result was negative.

What about demonstrating a straightforward link between the introduction of same-sex marriage and the annual change in other-sex marriages? I looked at regressing the Year and the presence or otherwise (as a dummy) of same-sex marriage against the annual change in other-sex marriages. The table of that data is below.

Year Same-Sex Marriage? Change in Other-Sex Marriages
2001 No +7,557
2002 No +1,874
2003 No +4,693
2004 No +8.003
2007 Yes -6,797
2008 Yes -7,383
2009 Yes -20,524
2010 Yes -5,308
2011 Yes -8,027

The results of a step-wise regression are very interesting. The first variable that comes in is the Same-Sex marriage dummy.

Dummy Coefficient -15,139
P-Value 0.0029

This tells us that the presence of same-sex marriage in any year, regardless of the year, reduces the change in other-sex marriages by over -15,000. That’s easily enough to move from growth to decline. We are 99.7% confident this is a real effect. When we then try to enter in the year itself we don’t get a significant p-value. This means that we reject the hypothesis that there is a change in the number of other-sex marriages that is a general trend over time. Put simply, this means that the annual change is connected to the introduction of same-sex marriage and NOT a general long-term trend (as some have argued elsewhere).

So, what can we say from this? We are pretty certain that there are two different patterns in other-sex marriages registered in Spain pre and post the introduction of same-sex marriage.  Those patterns seem to be directly linked to the introduction of same-sex marriage and are not part of a general trend in the time period we have data for. Whether one causes the other is of course a matter for further research.

A word of caution – it would be interesting to add pre-2001 marriage data into the mix to see if the final analysis (regressing against year and a dummy for same-sex marriage) holds up in a longer time period. Furthermore, given that Spain is a very religious county (Roman Catholic), one cannot automatically assume that such a phenomenon would repeat itself here in the UK. Indeed, if someone could supply me with the data from some of the other countries in Europe that have already introduced same-sex marriage, we could test that hypothesis.

Thoughts?

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  • Paul

    How about a control to compare against – ie. a similar country (France or Italy perhaps?) which hasn’t had gay marriage introduced. Would be interesting to see if there’s any change in rates around 2005 for those countries. Also it would be good to see data from other countries introducing gay marriage to see if there’s a similar affect. As you say, the data you present here cannot be used to prove causation, more data is needed.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Well to be fair I *did* prove that for Spain there was a statistically significant link between the introduction of same-sex marriage and the drop in the annual change in other-sex marriages.

      Using France as a control is interesting, but I’m not sure what purpose it would serve. If you could take a country like Portugal or Italy with the same religiousity and you observed a similar drop after 2005 then you might have a point. But equally, that’s why I’m asking for data from Nordic countries or the Netherlands which would equally prove your point that this is a Spanish phenomenom and not a general principle to be applied to same-sex marriage per se.

      • Paul

        I don’t believe you’ve demonstrated causation. Say for example that Spain introduced at 5000E tax on marriages in 2005. This might cause a trend such as that observed, but this would be nothing to do with gay marriage. I think comparing with a “control” of a similar country may help understand if there are other underlying cultural changes influencing the numbers, and as you suggest, comparing with other countries introducing gay marriages would demonstrate if this is a repeatable effect.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Show me the data for the 5000E tax and I will analyse it.

          I’ve already said that I’m not sure this effect will be replicated in less religious countries, so I’m not sure why you keep raising that straw man.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667301476 Brian Kelly

            Ah, Peter, when you begin ‘Let me explain’, I know I’m not going to follow what follows! We do know, however, that Spain as a country, with massive youth unemployment, is estuffado, as they say in Spanglish, and I can’t help feeling that a whole bunch of socio-religious factors have come together there in the past few years. I suggest you do a comparison instead with Canada, where homosexual ‘marriage’ was introduced in 2005 and real marriage rates are probably the lowest they have ever been – even lower than in the Depression – but they have been declining since the 1970s, as Canada, under the influence of Trudeaupian thinking, began to cast off a Christian polity.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Find me the Canadian marriage figures, I’ll test the hypothesis

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667301476 Brian Kelly

                quaerite et invenietis. Just google Canada marriage rates.

      • http://twitter.com/mattwardman mattwardman

        I have to say I’m not convinced that 3-4k same sex marriaged per year would be the main driver for a fall of 25% in hetersexual marriages over a single 6 year period. Something else must be going on imo.

        eg Spain has last year switched from net immigration to net emigration for the first time in decades, and those leaving have rocketed over the last few years. Logic says that people coming in would marry before they arrive, and those leaving will be mobile youngsters who are not marrying yet.

        One control (ok – comparison) may be Spanish economics vs marriages in the 1980s or 1990-1996, which is a similar profile to the last 6 years in the same culture.

        That should establish whether an unemployment can be linked to marriages falling, and knock out one alternative hypothesis.

        Unemployment data here back to 1987
        http://www.tradingeconomics.com/spain/unemployment-rate

        No idea where to get the marriage data for that period :-).

        (Personally, I think it’s all linked with them trying to prove themselves respectable enough to deserve Gibraltar back at different times. Perhaps.)

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          That’s good control. Anybody got the marriage data?

  • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

    We also know enough about stats to realise that correlation does not imply causation…

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Yes, but at the moment I have proven correlation and no alternative hypothesis for causation. Care to present one?

      • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

        I can suggest several. Secularism, a devaluing of marriage in society, lack of commitment, lack of social pressure to get married, more acceptance of having children outside marriage, less of a desire to have a family, wider practice of homosexual relationships. In fact, whatever you can think of to explain the drop in marriage rates over the past decades more widely in countries that do not use the word “marriage” for same-sex partnerships could also have caused a drop in marriage rates since 2005 in Spain specifically. And plenty of those factors could cause both of the effects that you are considering.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Except that none of them explain why all of a sudden in 2006 the trend dramatically changes, Those are long terms factors, not sudden one-off shifts (which is what we have here).

          • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

            True, but unless you have a decent knowledge of Spanish culture over the past decade or so, it’s probably futile to speculate. There are countless factors that could be at work, and I suspect a direct causal link would be very hard to demonstrate. Do you really think people are saying, “Well, we’d love to get married, but our country recognises same-sex marriage, so let’s just cohabit”? If you want to demonstrate such a causal link, you should be looking for that kind of quote, as it would be much more conclusive than a statistical correlation.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              The way we do this kind of research is to setup a hypothesis, test it and then report. For example, Richard above posited the hypothesis that this was more to do with economic activity then a response to same-sex marriage. To test that we got the GDP data and ran the regressions again. Result? Same-sex marriage appeared to be two and a half times more powerful in the model then GDP.

              So by all means propose an alternative hypothesis to replace mine (that the link is causally connected to the introduction of same-sex marriage). Give me the data for that hypothesis and I will run the numbers. If the factors you propose are more powerful then the same-sex marriage dummy then I will happily report that here and we can reject my hypothesis and replace it with a stronger theory.

              I want to go where the statistical evidence takes me. I get the sense you want to go where your dogma takes you.

              • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

                My dogma is no more than that most claims based on the statistical evidence are very dubious!

                There’s an interesting sentence here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Spain – that in 2004 “López Aguilar also announced two propositions, … one introduced legal status for both opposite- and same-sex common-law unions”. I can’t find out more, but if the legal status of opposite-sex common-law unions changed around 2005, that could explain the dip in number of marriages. I’m not sure if that did actually happen, but it’s a hypothesis…

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  I think you would need to flesh that out, but it’s a good hypothesis. If there was an alternative Civil Union that other-sex couples could enter (and we have figures for that) then that might expain the drop in other-sex marriages.

                  Go and find the figures and we can test the hypothesis. Until we have those figures, you can’t suggest it beats my hypothesis!

                  • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

                    I had a look around, but it seems to be a common-law marriage kind of thing that is recognised but not registered. I couldn’t find anything to back up the statement on Wikipedia.

                    Anyway, my prior beliefs (that extending “marriage” to cover same-sex relationships won’t in itself deter a significant number of opposite-sex couples from getting married) lead me to believe that an alternative hypothesis exists somewhere out there, and thus that you haven’t demonstrated the causal link ;)

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      I have demonstrated a very clear statistical link (the introduction of same-sex marriage) and so far I have demonstrated it is two and half times more powerful then changes in GDP! I’m open to another hypothesis as to *why* the link exists, but if you have no other data to throw at me then surely you must concede I am in the superior position?

                      :-)

                      By the way, look at my responses to Linus. I found the house price data and it’s not significant.

                    • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

                      Not at all, we’re neck and neck!

                      You’ve demonstrated that A and B are highly correlated. You’ve hypothesised that this is because A causes B, with absolutely no data to support that particular hypothesis. I’ve hypothesised that something else has caused B, with an ambiguous quote from Wikipedia to back up my hypothesis. Arguably that puts me in a superior position :)

                      If you find a quote like I suggested above (preferably not from Wikipedia), then I’ll concede a point to your hypothesis. You need to follow up your hypothesis with some qualitative research among Spanish cohabiting opposite-sex couples, and find some who say: “Well, we’d love to get married, but our country recognises same-sex marriage, so let’s just cohabit”.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Au contraire!

                      I have proved at least correlation and I have batted down alternative hypotheses when presented with them. You haven’t even achieved the first step (proving correlation)!

                      I agree that the qualitative research would be good, but at least I have a VERY good model (and here I’m thinking of the one that includes GDP data).

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

                … which is why quantitative research is next to useless in this sort of sociological study

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  Incorrect. Quantitative research is often very useful for helping indicate which qualitative research to do!

                  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

                    Yes, take your point! But I think these stats don’t really tell us anything very much. We would need to find out whether same sex marriage actually had any effect in terms of the actual decisions made and we can’t do that by number crunching alone. Spain is a country where marriages have traditionally been carried out by the church – 97% as recently as 1979 – and its also a country where religion at a symbolic level has a much higher presence then here. Yet Mass attendance is down to 15%, far less in the big cities. And they introduced same-sex marriages earlier than we did and without the civil partnership step first…

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      But number crunching does help us begin to see where the land lies and it definitely proves something changed in 2005/2006 to cause a sudden change in behaviour in other-sex marriage rates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.conolly Richard Conolly

    Pete, I think a very obvious alternative explanation for the drop-off in marriages is the economic circumstances in Spain. Things haven’t been good for a while and have been disastrous since 2008. I know you note an earlier decline, but this could just be down to normal up and down fluctuations. Its hard get married when you have no job, nor a prospect of one!

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      OK – someone point me to some basic economic figures for Spain (GDP growth for example) and I’ll add them into the mix to see if they’re more significant.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        Taking the GDP figures from http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=sp&v=66 I coded them as actual annual change and a dummy for growth / recession.

        Guess what? The same-sex marriage dummy comes in first with an initial p-value of 0.0029. GDP actual change steps in second with a p-value of 0.0193 and the same-sex marriage dummy alters to 0.0051. Year and growth/recession dummy don’t enter, indicating no significant trend over time.

        Same-sex marriage dummy produces an F stat of 20 by itself and adding in the gdp field takes the F stat up to 28. Roughly put, the same-sex marriage effect is two and a half times more powerful then the economic effect.

        Hypothesis that this is primarily an economic rather than same-sex marriage reaction effect rejected.

        • Daniel Walters

          “Roughly put, the same-sex marriage effect is two and a half times more powerful then the economic effect.

          Hypothesis that this is primarily an economic rather than same-sex marriage reaction effect rejected.”

          But objective economic reality may be less important to individuals making major life decisions than their *perception* of that reality. If there is a widespread belief that marriage is unaffordable now, then whether it truly is unaffordable is almost irrelevant.

          Also (and I’m neither an economist nor a statistician) GDP is an aggregate figure and the impact on individuals will likely vary hugely depending on their social class etc. To make a bold statement like your “hypothesis . . . rejected” seems premature without further demographic studies – which social groups are now not getting married in Spain? And how are changing economic circumstances affecting them, as opposed to other groups?

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            Well the onus is on you to provide the data to support your analysis

            • Daniel Walters

              What if that data isn’t available? Not everything important is measurable (and even what is measurable is not always measured…)

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                Then you can’t prove your hypothesis and you certainly can’t go around saying “Well it could be X but I’m not in a position to defend that assertion”. As opposed to me actually being in a position to defend my assertions.

  • Linus Wilmington

    The drop in the number of opposite sex marriages in Spain coincides with the point at which house prices reached unsustainable levels making a property purchase increasingly difficult for the average Spaniard. The subsequent property bust and resultant economic meltdown with up to 20% unemployment has severely limited the ability of many Spaniards to marry from a purely economic point of view.

    I’m not surprised to see this kind of phony statistical analysis here though. It’s all part of the bad faith driving opposition to equal marriage at any cost. Pulling a single statistical phenomenon out of context, drawing totally unwarranted conclusions from it and then demanding that others come up with statistics to disprove it, or it must be true, is not only bad science, it demonstrates very clearly that the ultimate goal here is to use any means, honourable or dishonourable, to argue against equal marriage.

    Ever since this blog first came to my notice I’ve suspected that selfish cynicism is the motive for much of the invective that fills its pages. This thread confirms that suspicion. People who are ready to tell any lie or manipulate any statistic to prevent others from gaining full equality are beneath contempt. They certainly don’t deserve my notice, so I’m out of here.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Phony statistical analysis? Get over yourself. I have a degree in this stuff, do it for a living and have made a reputation for myself of ****ing off fellow conservatives for calling them out when they abuse these kinds of figures.

      Please spell out for us which part of my analysis was statistically incorrect. We’re waiting.

      Whilst you’re doing that, we can address the hypothesis you present, namely that the change in other-sex marriage rates links to Spanish property prices. Anybody have the figures for those?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Property prices seem to follow the GDP figures (see http://www.montesdemalaga.com/charts/historic-index_EN.php) so unlikely to be a better indicator. Will happily do the regression analysis is someone finds a proper table rather than just a chart.

      Will you accept that property prices are not a better explanation then the introduction of same-sex marriage if the analysis indicates as much?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I have Spanish Property Prices – http://sdw.ecb.europa.eu/quickview.do?SERIES_KEY=129.RPP.Q.ES.N.ND.00.0.00
      Give me 10 minutes

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      OK – I used the property price figures from above and included the actual index value AND the change in the index value. I regressed (stepwise) the change in other-sex marriage against the same-sex marriage dummy, the GDP growth figure, the GDP Dummy, actual house price index and change in house price index. I got exactly the same results as just using the GDP figures and same-sex marriage dummy. Property prices didn’t come into the model and weren’t significant.

      Would you like the data-set so you can repeat the analysis?

      • Philip Cole

        A fairly obvious observation, but I’d still like to make it:

        1. Peter highlighted a trend in Spanish same- and opposite- sex marriages, conducted a comprehensive statistical evaluation of the evidence, and commented on that evaluation in a neutral manner.
        2. Linus raised a plausibly different factor, namely house price trends, that could be responsible for the declining trend in opposite sex marriage, but then didn’t bother to conduct a statistical evaluation of this plausible factor or cite any research around this factor as well as, disgracefully, rubbishing Peter’s analysis on the basis of no evidence at all. He also commented on Peter’s evaluation, as well as the opinions presented on his site, in a decidedly unpleasent manner: ‘selfish cynicism’, ‘invective’, ‘People who are ready to tell any lie or manipulate any statistic to prevent others from gaining full equality are beneath contempt’.
        And it’s supporters of opposite sex marriage who are accused of being bigots. Unbelievable!
        Somehow I don’t expect Linus to be taking up Peter’s challenge …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=652259618 Thomas Gwyn Dunbar

    very interesting. I don’t have data but I’m inclined to further hypothesize that there’s been an opposite correlation with the number of sacramental marriages in Spain. My rationale being that SSM devalues civil marriage and so more would seek to be married in the Church. However, i also would expect the correlation to not be as strong since one doesn’t marry in the Church as frivolously.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Yes, someone else has mentioned this. Can anybody find the figures for such sacramental marriages? We could then add them into the model and see what they indicated.

      • http://twitter.com/mattwardman mattwardman

        Can we get at the existing trend for ‘religious’ marriages in the UK (ie exclude CofE which are also civil marriages in one)?

        I wonder what will happen to humanist same-sex ceremonies if the likes of MCC an Quakers are offering the option, never mind those by ‘humanists with added caffeine-free religion’ such as the Spiritualists.

        BHA gets some significant revenue and membership from compulsory membership of celebrants iirc.

  • http://twitter.com/mattwardman mattwardman

    Netherlands:

    Large paper:
    http://www.iza.org/conference_files/TAM2010/trandafir_m6039.pdf

    “My estimates from speci cations with unobserved heterogeneity suggest that the marriage rate increases after the introduction of registered partnership and falls after the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, this pattern is not uniform: individuals living in the more conservative municipalities commonly called the Dutch Bible belt tend to marry less after the registered partnership law, but their marriage rate returns to the long-term trend after the same-sex marriage law. In contrast, individuals living in the four largest cities (the more liberal areas) marry less after both laws. Finally, people residing outside these two regions follow the same pattern as the overall marriage rate, marrying more after the registered partnership law and less after the same-sex marriage law.”

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Great stuff Matt! So contrary to what I hyopthesised, the Netherlands did see a statistically significant drop in other-sex marriage rates after the introduction of same-sex marriage.

      • http://twitter.com/mattwardman mattwardman

        The paper is huge, and I cherry picked.

        It is 45 pages, and there’s a lot more.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Don’t worry – I had a good read. Great find. Well done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ann.memmott Ann Memmott

    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php?title=File:Crude_marriage_rate,_1960-2010_(per_1_000_inhabitants).png&filetimestamp=20111208133507 May be helpful. Note that Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden all have same-sex marriage. Note that the overall change in marriage rates for those countries that have SSM and those that do not is no different.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      That data isn’t fine enough. We would need year by year data for each country from 2000 onwards. Thanks for looking it up though.

  • Philip Cole

    A very interesting analysis, as with all your statistical analysis, Peter. Although I’m a development economist rather than a statistician we use statistical analysis alot as well. On a quick scan I can verify that your analysis is correct and of high quality. The following thread has, so far, conspicuously failed to show correlation with alternative factors as well as, in the case of Linus’ contribution at least, being guilty of the very invective that he claims is shown on your site.

    I think there are a number of interesting comparions, most of which have emerged on the thread:

    1. Comparisons with similarly strongly Catholic countries like Portugal (gay marriage) and Italy (no gay marriage or civil unions) and possible Latin American countries like Brazil (civil unions) and Argentina (gay marriage but quite recently).

    2. The obvious but important comparisons with Northern European and North American countries where both gay marriage and civil unions started as innovations and, in the Nordic countries, has now been in place for sufficient length of time to probably establish and compare trends with even greater statistical significance.

    For my own contribution I can give the South African statistics for marriages and civil unions from Statistics South Africa here http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0307/P03072010.pdf which also show some interesting incipient trends.
    1. Opposite-sex marriage rose almost continuously from 2001 to 2008 to peak at 186,522 (p.17) in that year. Since then there has been a fall of close to 10% in the number of marriages in the two years to 2010.
    2. South Africa legalised civil unions in 2006 and there were limited numbers of civil unions in 2007. Interestingly, civil unions are open to both same- and opposite-sex couples but have been overwhelmingly taken up by same-sex couples. The first significant numbers of civil unions were in 2008 (p.28), the year that opposite sex-marriage numbers peaked.
    There is of course an insufficient time series of civil union data to conduct a statistically significant analysis at this point in time. I would guess around five more years of data will be needed. But I find it interesting that the number of marriages has fallen sharply in the two years since we first had large numbers of civil unions in South Africa.

  • Revd_Dave

    For what it’s worth, there has been a lot of work done looking at the attitude effects of “no fault divorce” as it was introduced in different ‘western’ countries, mostly in the 1970s. There was a statistically significant increase in the rates of divorce that could be shown to coincide with the legal change – showing that the change in the law brought about a change in social attitudes to divorce.

    LEGAL CHANGES DO AFFECT SOCIETAL ATTITUDES: Of course our liberal friends will argue til they’re blue in the face that an increase in divorce was good – because it showed that people felt freer to choose – but they forget that divorce has high costs, for the state, for the individuals involved and especially for any children..

    • Revd_Dave

      This paper discusses and also reviews many other studies in different western countries that look at all sorts of negative effects this has had, no doubt unintended but serious… but at the time noone was thinking, I guess: http://www.marriagedebate.com/pdf/imapp.nofault.divrate.pdf

      And here’s a study, for those who suspect the political bias of American studies, from the “Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit “, but in English: http://ftp.iza.org/dp2023.pdf

    • cerebusboy

      And our conservative friends forget that liberal comes from the latin for pertaining to a free man ;-) ; there might be lots of anti-gay people in this or other countries but, forced to choose, most would rather live in a society that did not unduly curb their heterosexual behaviour, even if the price of that is tolerance/validation of gay sexuality.

      The point you make about divorce could be extended to all sorts of things. People in the west can drink themselves to death, watch online pornography, never set foot in a religious building, spend all their money on piggy materialism etc. Isn’t that the price you pay for free will and democracy?

      Otherwise good point about divorce though. In all my time in an evangelical church , I can recall (although there was lots of anti-gay rhetoric from the pulpit) precisely one condemnation of abortion and precisely no condemnations of divorce. Is such an apparent set of priorities really biblical? Of course, that church was and is led by a pastor who had personal reasons for being pro-divorce…. ;-)

      • Revd_Dave

        CB, it is certainly the result of us having free will and being able to do immoral things. But it is not the price we pay for freedom, it is the first installment of the price we pay for sin – people don’t have to be greedy, lustful and addicted to alcohol etc etc. In fact these are all traps that limit your creativity and can destroy you, never mind what they do to others and that they condemn us in God’s eyes.

        Given our Lord’s condemnation of divorce and remarriage as adultery, except in very limited circumstances, and the OT biblical view that sexual intercourse makes a man and a woman married (unless it is adulterous), I’m always amused by many pastors’ unwillingness to speak out clearly – not only on same-sex relationships but on relational and sexual sin generally…

        It’s hardly surprising that many churches are dying out – rather like some of the churches in Revelation 2-3 – if we are not being faithful to God.

  • sootyegg

    These are absolute numbers of people getting married though. So an alternative hypothesis is that there are fewer people in the age groups which are most likely to marry. It seems that Spanish birth rates pretty much halved between 1973 and 1993. And you can see how marked the change is of numbers in the 20-24 and 25-29 age groups for 2005 here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_pyramid_of_Spain_(2005).png).

    This must have *some* contribution to the effect – though I have no idea where you would get the age adjusted marriage rates and historical age profile for Spain that would be needed to properly factor it in.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      You would need to find the age distributions for more than just one year. But wouldn’t a changing age profile lead to a slow change in the marriage rate, not the dramatic step-change we see in 2006 onwards?

  • James A

    Perhaps a comparison with Eire may be in order. It is another European Catholic country, and gay partnership legislation was introduced in 2010.

    Marriage, rather helpfully in terms of rates per 1,000 population, are available from the official figures:

    http://cso.ie/en/statistics/birthsdeathsandmarriages/numberofbirthsdeathsandmarriages/

    It can be seen that these rates were at a minimum (4.3/1000) in 1995, 1997, and 2011.

    The peak in marriage was in 1970 (7.1/1000) with a smaller peak in the mid-noughties (2004-7; 5.2/1000)

    Births fluctuate through this period too, rising from a minimum in 1994/5, suggesting demographic issues are playing a major part in all these figures.

    Both Ireland and Spain have seen a backlash against the power of the Catholic church over the past few years, in Ireland this was partly prompted by the publicity surrounding clerical abuse cases, in Spain there have been other political issues.

    In Ireland there has been a noticable increase in time in the numbers of those cohabiting – this rise started long before the implementation of gay partnerships.

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/world/kfkfcwidsnid/rss2/

    I suspect that any influence of gay partnership legislation will be dwarfed by these other social trends.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Some comments:

      i) To do a proper quantitative analysis we would need year by year figures, not just snap-shots
      ii) I think it’s generally recognised that the introduction of legal same-sex partnerships doesn’t have any real effect on marriages. It’s the redefinition of marriage that causes the issue (as we have seen in the Spanish and Dutch data).

  • http://twitter.com/raisinhead Paul McMichael

    “Put simply, this means that the annual change is down to the
    introduction of same-sex marriage and NOT a general long-term trend (as
    some have argued elsewhere).”

    You simply can’t support this kind of statement with the data presented. You SHOULD have said:

    “Put simply, this means that the annual change occurs at the same time as the introduction of same-sex marriage and is NOT a general long-term trend (as
    some have argued elsewhere).

    A sorry error. But then when you view the world through the prism of religious belief, its not surprising. So you find causation (implied in above, denied elsewhere) where they may be none.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      You are absolutely right. My figure of speech was due to my religious bias and not trying to make the statistics easy to understand for the layman.

      • wondering_soul

        A graceful response. But it rather points up the need for qualitative analysis to determine whether correlation, which to my mind you have prima facie demonstrated, reflects causation or coincidence. Problem is, that would be a major research project in its own right, and I rather doubt anyone would be able to complete it in time to inform the process of legislation, even if one could find a researcher and a funder. Either way, it rather neatly indicates that the proposed legislation is clearly not a demonstration of the evidence-based policy making the Government claims it believes in, as what hard evidence there would appear to be would not lead a neutral observer (if there is such a paragon on this topic) to conclude at this point that gender neutral marriage clearly produces the broader strenghtening of marriage as a social institution that the Prime Minister has claimed lies behind the policy.So in the absence of pressing social need (and whether or not one thinks there is such a pressing need can only be based on personal prejudice – in the technical sense of that word and without intending to imply any malice or malfeasance on the part of those with strong views on either side of this argument – in the absence of hard evidence), one would have though that a Government might have wanted to take the time to produce and evaluate the evidence before proceeding to legislation. But from the issuing of the consultation document it’s been very clear that isn’t where it is.
        Since this isn’t Cranmer’s blog I’ll merely observe in passing that none of this reflects a very conservative approach (as most people would understand the word) to legislation or social policy. But then, Westminster and Fleet Street do generally tend to take a Humpty Dumpty view of the English language that a word means what they want it to, with the sort of consequences for the language and nature of political discourse that Orwell warned of over 60 years ago in his essay on Politics and the English language.

        • cerebusboy

          Yes, the conservative party’s war on the poor – c.f. Osborne’s recent shirkers v workers dichotomy ( are those with cerebral palsy finding their ESA threatened by the private-company-getting-rich-at-the-taxpayer’s-expense Atos really ‘shirkers’?) certainly reminds one of Orwell’s warnings…
          Worth noting that Andrew Sullivan articulated the whole conservative case for supporting gay marriage long before Cameron. There are worse people (e.g. Cramner) that Dave could derive policy from… ;-)

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            The Conservative Party’s war on the poor? I am no longer a member, intend to tactically vote against them in future elections, but may I present exhibits A and B?

            http://orderorder.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/income-tax1.jpg

            http://orderorder.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/income-tax-22.jpg

            • cerebusboy

              Shall peruse. Do you also have the rates of child poverty under Thatcher (significant, policy-related increase) and Blair’s Governments (significant, policy-related decrease) to hand?

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                Sadly no. And also, define “poverty”. I’ve been to Bangalore – there are very few poor people in this country.

                • cerebusboy

                  so you reject the notion of relative poverty?I’ve heard (middle-class, privleged, etc etc) evangelicals ‘jokingly’ (!) describe themselves as ‘poor’, merely because they’re not as indescribably wealthy as the subcultural norm. £40Kpa is probably ‘poor’ by HTB standards, Osborne being called an ‘oik’ because he ‘only’(!) went to St.Paul’s style. Aside from which, even if one makes a distinction between ‘real’ and ‘relative’ poverty, do Governments really get a free pass for not addressing the latter? Working/underclass people already think we piss away far too much on overseas aid, with good reason (c.f. also aslyum and immigration. It’s factually untrue to say, as I’ve heard in nice-middle-class-Boden-catalogue-at-prayer evangelical churches – well, St.Silage specifically – that asylum seekers only get housed in the flats nobody wants. It’s certainly true that nice middle class ”normal” people wouldn’t want to live in any kind of cooncil hoose – how ghastly! – but that’s not really the same thing at all, is it? )

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    Finished?

                    • cerebusboy

                      Peter, it’s not a rant. You presented info on income tax. I referred to poverty. I would of course happily have searched out relevant data on Thatcher v Blair, but you questioned the usefulness of such data anyway when making a distinction between mere relative poverty and real poverty in Bangalore. Less provocatively, let’s put it this way:
                      (i)even if the ‘poor’ in the UK are ‘only’ relatively as opposed to absolutely poor, would you agree that fuel/food etc ‘poverty’ are Bad Things and that, as Christians in a land sloshing with millionaires, it’s entirely sensible to look at the child poverty rates under conservative and Labour governments to see how well they are looking after the less fortunate?
                      (ii) there might be a tradition of ‘deserving’ v ‘underserving’ poor but such categories hardly apply to children, meaning that there’s no escape from the ‘less child ‘poverty’ = moral duty, or at least good idea’ equasion? One could concede that and take the ‘Poor are with you always’ line, perhaps arguing that child poverty rates under Thatcher were a necessary evil/at an acceptable level etc

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      “St Silage”? You see, you lost me with your hyperbole. If only you’d done this second post and not bothered with the diatribe in the first.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Sorry! Stress and caffeine. Mea culpa. 70 times 7? ;)

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      490 Hail Maries might just do it. Together with an indulgence. In coinage.

                    • cerebusboy

                      Meh, where’s the Sola Scripturists when you need ‘em? ;)

                      this shall have to suffice ;) (Unless you want some Christmas Special spoilers!)

                      http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/12/13/dave-sims-doctor-who/

                      Shall edit the more hyperbolic elements of the contentious posts above

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1174815915 Kathy Verbiest Baldock

    you folks need to read Freakanomics. As gay marriages increased, I have noticed that My yearly number of miles hiked has decreased. Therefore gay marriage personally effected my health. OR, maybe i am just getting older.

    • http://twitter.com/CPBrough Christopher Brough

      Your point is of course that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Many excellent people have already pointed out that correlation does not imply causation. So far as I can see Peter has replied to all of these excellently and in the course of which a second example to back his analysis has arisen – namely the Netherlands. Do you have an alternative hypothesis to present?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    As a researcher (PhD level) this isn’t all that helpful – because there may be no actual correlation and the results could be simple coincidence. What would be interesting is to do some qualitative research which could find out the reasons behind the drop.
    Clearly I haven’t a clue what they might be, but if I was carrying out that research, I would certainly want to investigate the effect on the financial crisis in a country where ‘wedding’ still means, for many, ‘large Catholic ‘do’ which costs’, and also, whether the options for housing make marriage less likely.
    These sort of things need qualitative, not quantitative research, which tell us little about meanings and motivations. We would need to talk to people who opted not to marry but cohabit or remain liv ing singly or with families instead, despite having the wish to marry.
    As it stands though, its an interesting coincidence but nothing more

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