Thursday, June 01, 2006

Who's rent-seeking now?

One of the arguments I have heard regarding same-sex relationships and their legal status is that gays wish to marry in order to collect "the benefits". The argument is that without all these financial benefits gays would not be interested in marriage. There is an implication that gay couples are couples merely as some form of rent seeking.

But one little fact is ignored in all this. Gays tend to be more affluent than their straight counterparts. They have less need for the benefits that supposedly come with marriage. It should also be noted that so far none of the people who make this argument then suggest that marriage be abolished as a rent-seeking activity for straights. Of course marriage is generally not about the financial benefits. It is far deeper than that. But this post is not the place to cover that issue.

The point I want to make about financial benefits was in a report brought to my attention by our Kiwi "correspondent". This is a report from the Australian government based on their most recent census. What I found most interesting was this: "For same-sex couple, 92% of families had at least one partner employed in 2001. In comparison, 75% of opposite-sex couples had at least one partner employed." So the average gay couple is more employed than the average straight couple.

What does this mean for the rent-seeking accusation? Well, for one thing it means that gay couples are likely to pay into the system far more than they collect out of it. Instead of being rent-seekers they are precisely the kind of people who keep it afloat through their productive labour. This runs contrary to the claims I've heard.

Secondly the report notes: "The level of employment within same-sex couples is also reflected in the media weekly family income for families with positive states income, at $1,588 for male same-sex couples and $1,422 for female same-sex couples compared with $1,046 for opposite-sex couples." So the average gay couple is earning around 50% per week over the income of the average straight couple.

The statistics also showed that gay couples have fewer children. About 5% of the male gay couples had a child in the household, and about 20% of female couples did. Among straight couples it was closer to 57%. This would mean that any tax deductions that one may receive due to having children are not claimed by most gay couples.

In other words they will pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than their straight counterparts. The entire rent-seeking claim is rather insulting to these couples. And unless Australia is the exception the evidence would tend to show the opposite is true: gay couples support the system disproportionately and marriage laws redistribute wealth from gay couples to straight couples. Since conservatives oppose the redistribution of wealth perhaps they ought to support gay marriage to prevent this form of socialism from continuing.