Another Bad Gay Parenting Study

On the heels of Mark Regnerus’ atrocious study of gay parents we have another one, from Canadian economist Douglas Allen. Philip Cohen, a sociologist from the University of Maryland, calls the results of the paper “meaningless” and details all the reasons why on his website analyzing the paper. A couple of the criticisms:

That problem is so bad that you don’t need to worry about the problem of who raised these young adults, which is supposed to be the issue in the first place.

They live with their parents. But for how long have they done that, and for how long have their parents been in gay or lesbian relationships? We can’t know. Allen controls for whether the child has moved in the last year or five years, but we don’t know if the parents moved with them. Controlling for whether they have moved doesn’t address this. A full 60% of the lesbian-mother kids and 39% of the gay-father kids have moved in the last five years, compared with just 24% of the different-sex-married-parent kids. Their life stories are in these mobility histories, and the paper can’t say anything about that.

The paper says the children of gay and lesbian parents are “65% as likely to graduate,” a number Regnerus repeats, and Allen repeated in an interview. That’s just preying on the public, who don’t understand that in odds ratios (which I’ve discussed this here), that number would be even more dramatic if the graduation rates of the two groups were 99 and 96 percent. There is no good way to describe odds ratios, really, but they are useful in statistics. Anyway, the paper does provide the marginal effects, which show that the children living with gay parents have graduated from him school at an adjusted predicted percentage 6 points lower than those living with married different-sex parents, that number for kids of lesbian parents — which is not statistically significant with controls added — is 9 percentage points. But it’s not a meaningful result anyway.

You can expect this to be widely and loudly trumpeted by the anti-gay bigots, just like they keep citing the Regnerus study without considering the many methodological flaws.

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  • hunter

    It’s already being touted by the likes of NOM.

    And what makes you think they care about methodological flaws?

  • RickR

    So this is all about graduation rates? With the radical right’s disdain for education, you’d think the bigots would be all for gay parenting if this study were true.

    Oh, there’s that “consistency” thing again. Must be one of those “liberal” “values” I keep hearing about.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    If assholes like Allen really want to do something good for the children of gays they should try fixing the economy rather than trying to fix gay people.

  • zero6ix

    Fixing the economy would actually involve getting results, as opposed to coming up with new and interesting ways of calling gays “of the devil” and “impure”.

  • DaveL

    Ed, you missed the best part. The author of the paper intends to draw conclusions about high school graduation rates, so he looks at the proportion of 17-22 year-olds living with their parents who have graduated high school. It turns out it’s very hard to draw conclusions about high school graduation rates when a large part of your sample would normally still be IN high school.

  • cptdoom

    @ DaveL – it gets even better because he deliberately removed all over 22-year-olds still living with their parents because…science! Seriously, he gives no reasonable explanation for this, which eliminates a very high percentage of actual high school graduates. Of course, there’s also no analysis of whether the children of gay or lesbian parents were different from children of straight parents from that start – i.e., the rate of biological vs. adopted children in the samples. We know that gays and lesbians adopt at higher rates than straight couples, and gays and lesbians tend to be willing to adopt children other’s can’t/won’t – those with health issues, neglect issues, abuse issues. etc. All of those issues feed into relative success in high school.

    But even putting methodological issues aside, there are two enormous FAILS with both this and the Regnerus study:

    1) The scientific method does not state “new results automatically negate all previous results.” Both of these studies contradict all known scientific research on the topic of same-sex parenting quality. That does not mean the previous studies should all be ignored, or that these two studies should be the be-all and end-all of research into the topic.

    2) We don’t base civil rights on social science. Reputable studies have shown for years that single parents and poorer parents tend to have less successful children. What civil rights have these groups lost as a result? None.

  • jnorris

    cptdoom wrote:

    2) We don’t base civil rights on social science. Reputable studies have shown for years that single parents and poorer parents tend to have less successful children. What civil rights have these groups lost as a result? None.

    Please don’t give the Republicans any new targets.

  • exdrone

    If the bigots are obsessed with studying the interaction of same-sex families in communities, perhaps they will be comforted by the knowledge that, at least from the point of view of transparency, the sample size is getting larger.