Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

January 23, 2014

Same-sex marriage debate won't hurt Indiana's economy

This is a moral, legal discussion and not an economic one.

(Continued)

To see that measurable direct effects are unlikely, suppose that HJR-3 fails and a judge rules that the current law against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. According to the executives at Lilly and Cummins, this will increase their ability to recruit. How big does this have to be to move GDP? It has to be much larger than either company’s workforce. If 4 percent of the Indiana workforce is homosexual and they contribute more than 4 percent to GDP, let’s say double the average worker, rejecting HJR-3 would have to increase the workforce by more than 64,000 people. Cummins and Lilly combined have about 84,000 employees. Does anyone at Lilly, Cummins or the other firms behind Freedom Indiana think this is remotely possible?

As long argued by The Economist, same-sex marriage can have a direct economic effect another way by increasing the stability of same-sex relationships. This has surprisingly not come up in the statewide discussion of the amendment and has more grounding in economic theory than the claims made by Indiana business executives, but the numbers again are too small to be measured.

What about an indirect effect of passing HJR-3 on heterosexuals? Certainly the negative publicity must take its toll? We have had many negative “tweets” about HJR-3 (#HJR3 is trending on Twitter) and the national press is not portraying the discussion in a positive light, to say the least. It seems clear that some employers may be affected and firms will have examples either way. But these are anecdotes, and anecdotes are not data nor are trending Twitter hashtags. Indiana has a $255 billion economy composed of a workforce of 3.2 million people in 143,000 businesses. If economists can agree on one thing, it is that people generally act in their economic interest and many studies surprisingly show that publicity has little effect on economic interests. This suggests that people will not change their economic activities in any significant manner based on the whether marriage is redefined or not.

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