Five Years After Massachusetts Legalized Gay Marriage, Study Finds $100 Million Economic Boost From Weddings

AMHERST, Mass. – On the fifth anniversary of legalized marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, a new study co-authored by University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor M.V. Lee Badgett, shows it has produced clear economic gains for the state—more than $100 million in new economic activity generated by same-sex marriages.

The study was released by UCLA’s Williams Institute, where Badgett is the research director. She is also a professor of economics and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at UMass Amherst.

The research includes a survey of married same-sex couples showing that the typical gay or lesbian couple spent $7,400 on their weddings in Massachusetts, with one-in-10 couples spending more than $20,000. The study’s analysis of state data on hotel occupancy tax payments confirms the boost from out-of-state guests at these weddings.

“Florists, caterers, hotels, bakers, restaurants, and many other businesses have gotten a share of the $111 million spent on the 12,000-plus weddings of same-sex couples,” Badgett says. “Allowing gay couples to marry won’t end the recession, but their spending still helps in tough times for businesses.”

A second related study from the Williams Institute found that Massachusetts has gained a competitive edge in attracting young, highly educated “creative class” professionals who are same-sex couples. The findings of these two studies confirm earlier predictions. They also suggest that other states allowing gay couples to marry—including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine—will see similar economic gains.

“Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that same-sex couples in the ‘creative class’ were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before,” says Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA’s Williams Institute and the author of the study. “The timing of this movement to Massachusetts suggests that those couples were flocking to the first state to allow them to marry.”

Gates argues that this infusion of younger and highly educated same-sex couples could help improve the long-term economic prospects for Massachusetts.

The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education
programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policymakers and the public.

Contact: Lee Badgett: 413/545-3162 or 310/904-9761;

More resources