I have talked about how the religious right distorts legitimate studies to attack the gay community. There have been many times in which this has happened. And recent came another one. From the Family Research Council:
According to a new study, having two married parents may be the best educational advantage you can give your kids. Based on data from 1.6 million children, Michael Rosenfeld confirms what FRC’s research has shown for some time: children from intact, married families were 35.4% more likely to do well in school than kids in homosexual homes. Also, children adopted into heterosexual families fared better — with a 24% edge in school progress over kids in same-sex families.
If the “new study” sounds familiar to folks who have read this blog, it’s because I talked about it days ago. That time, the National Organization for Marriage was touting it and I pointed out how one of the study’s authors – Douglas Allen - was affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute.
In the comments section of my blog, readers were alerting me to something that I confess I should have been paying more attention to. And now that the Family Research Council is touting the study – and inadvertently revealed an important fact about it – I am wide awake and raring to raise hell.
Both FRC and NOM are misleading folks in far more detail than I realized.
NOM omitted the fact that technically Allen didn’t necessarily create an original study. Allen told The Washington Examiner the following:
The study also looked at similar scholarly work that had determined no difference in children of same sex and traditional marriages. The authors said that those studies filtered the sample of children to get their result.
“The previous study claiming no differences between the children of same sex parents and other children had serious problems,” said study co-author Douglas Allen, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. That study, he said, “excluded children who were not biologically related to the household head, and children who did not live in the same place for five years. That threw out over half of the observations. When we put those children back into our analysis, but controlled for these factors, we found that the children of same sex parents are less likely to make normal progress through school.”
In other words, Allen took another study, published in 2010 and added new details in an attempt to get a conclusion more desirous to his position.
FRC is misleading folks making them believe the study is new and that the actual author – Michael Rosenfield – interprets it as a knock on same-sex families.
This is not true because of a letter Rosenfield wrote in November. In the letter, published in the same issue of Demography, he blasted Allen for manipulating his original work. It reads in part:
In Rosenfeld (2010), I was very careful to include only children who lived with their current parents for at least five years because those children’s current family structure influenced their progress through school. In their revision of my analysis, Allen et al. preferred to analyze the outcomes of all children, regardless of how long they had lived with their current families. Allen et al. therefore attributed to the current family (at the time of the census) child outcomes that may have been produced years before the current family was formed. Allen et al. violated a fundamental rule of causal order, which is that later characteristics ought not be used to predict earlier events.
It is a long point-by-point take down that you can read in its entirety if you wish. But the main gist is at the end. Rosenfield says:
Allen et al. reached the conclusion that children in same-sex-couple families fare worse in school by including all children regardless of how long the child has lived with the family (see their Models 2 and 4) and by including adopted and foster children along with the head of household’s own children (their Models 3 and 4). Allen et al.’s finding of worse school performance by children living with same-sex couples is due to their conflating the initial disadvantage of children who come into same-sex couple families (a disadvantage that appears to be substantial) with the progress children experience during the time when they are actually being raised by same-sex couples (progress that is excellent).
There is no statistically significant difference in making normal progress through school between children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by heterosexual married couples after family socioeconomic status is taken into account (see Table 1, column E). Allen et al. noted that even if the difference is not significant, the children of heterosexual married couples appear to be faring better. By the same logic, the children raised by unmarried heterosexual couples appear to be faring worse (with higher rates of grade retention) than children raised by same-sex couples (all of whom were unmarried according to U.S. law), though the difference in grade retention is not significant after socioeconomic controls are applied.
If formal marriage of the parents is beneficial to children, and if the goal of public policy is to maximize children’s chances of success, then perhaps the logical public policy prescription would be to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the United States.