Determinants of Parenthood for Lesbians and Gay Men
Analysis of the 2000 Census suggests that same-sex couples are increasingly rearing children (Gates and Ost 2004). It is estimated that one in three lesbians have given birth and one in six gay men have fathered or adopted a child. Yet little is known about the pathways that lead lesbians and gay men to become parents. The current study examines how the “coming out” process influences whether and when gay men and lesbian become parents. Our data from the 2008 General Social Survey provide direct measures of both timing of coming out along with information about timing of first parenting, though samples are relatively small. We hypothesize that lesbians and gay men who come out later in life are likely to have had more heterosexual sexual contacts earlier in life, increasing the probability that they become parents. Further analyses will be supplemented with data from a much larger sample of individuals who are part of a same-sex cohabiting couple from the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. Combining five years of data (2005-2009) yields a sample of approximately 7,500 individuals who are raising children and part of same-sex couples. Preliminary analyses of these data suggest high rates of parenting in socially and politically conservative parts of the country, where lesbians and gay men likely come out later in life.