In a recent article in the NRO and carried at MD.com, Joshua Livestro give us his spin on the effect of SSM on marriage in the Netherlands. Suggesting we re-read two articles by Dr. Stanley Kurtz, Mr. Livestro provides a tiny new snippet of data. He tells us the marriage rate in the Netherlands has dropped, and suggests this is due to SSM.
It is worth examining this tiny nugget of data, and seeing whether or not it seems to support Mr. Livestro’s claim. I must warn the reader: It does not.
Let us begin with Mr. Livestro’s claim:
Yes. The marriage rate declined in the Netherlands over the last decade. However, it is very odd to suggest this is somehow caused by the campaign for same sex marriage. The figure below shows the marriage rate in the Netherlands, the European average and the average for Scandinavia.
The marriage rate in the Netherlands closely matched the European average in 1991; it still does. Arguably, no country in Europe tracks the average more closely than the Netherlands. Many attribute the decrease in the European marriage rate, in part, to the aging population in Europe; it is plausible the aging Dutch population also has some effect. It boggles the mind that anyone would attribute the Dutch drop to legalized SSM.
However, Mr. Livestro prefers to suggest this:
On my graph, I noted two key events in the campaign for SSM in the Netherlands. At least to my eyes, the drop does not appear particularly connected to the legalization of either Registered Partnerships or Same Sex Marriage.
I guess Mr. Livestro can attribute this decrease to whatever he likes; I think it’s a coincidence. The campaign for same sex marriage in the Netherlands occurred just as the marriage rate was dropping all over Europe. The mailman delivered my mail just as the garbage man picked up my garbage. Unless I see evidence to connect the two things, one doesn’t seem to have much to do with the other.
Nevertheless, let us examine an intriguing possibility that Mr. Livestro attributes to Andrew Sullivan.
As those who have been read Stanley Kurtz’s various articles know, SSM, and “de facto” same sex marriage exist in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Interestingly, if we examine the average for Scandinavia, we see a slight rise in the marriage rate in those countries. Since this rise is totally at variance with the erosion we seen in the rest of Europe, it supports Andrew Sullivan’s premise that the campaign for SSM could strengthen the institution under the threat of countercultural erosion.
It’s rather interesting to go further. Examining the balance of the evidence, we see mounting support for Andrew Sullivan’s view:
- In Europe, the non-marital birth rate has risen less in Scandinavian countries with legal or de-facto SSM than in countries that without SSM. This comparison includes the Netherlands where the rise in illegitimacy hardly breaks out of the European mold. See “Tired”
- In Europe, the marriage rate has risen slightly in Scandinavian countries with legal SSM or defacto SSM. See figure above.
- In the US, the rate of increase in the non-marital birth ratio decelerated soon after the campaign for SSM went national. See “Reemergence of Marriage”. At a minimum, the campaign for SSM didn’t cause unmarried American women to rush out and get pregnant; in fact, it would appear many refrained!
- In the Netherlands, notwithstanding Mr. Livestro’s laments, the marriage rate has declined at the average rate for the rest of Europe. See figure above. So, SSM seems to have caused no harm.
So, based on fuller examination of the data than provided by either Dr. Kurtz or Mr. Livestro, SSM tends to benefit the institution of marriage. Sure, maybe it’s just a coincidence that the same sex marriage movement in Scandinavia and the US coincides with the improvements in the institution of marriage. As Mr. Livestro might say ( if he liked the data), “Maybe– but it would be an awfully big coincidence.”
Or maybe, Andrew Sullivan is right. If we legalize SSM, we will see marriage strengthened!4
 To obtain the European average, averaging all countries listed by newCronos. I excluded Lichtenstein because Lichtenstein failed to report 4 years.
 I calculated the Scandinavian average using Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
 I can’t help but wonder if that blip in 2000 isn’t due to enthusiastic couples wishing to marry at the turn of the millennium.
 I was hoping I wouldn’t have to fulfill my pledge quite so soon! I hope Mr. Livestro has taken over for Stanley Kurtz; Mr. Livestro’s articles are shorter.
Ohh.. I edited a sentence for clarity! Those who read first can guess which one.