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2024 marks 20 years since Massachusetts first legalized marriage for same-sex couples and nine years since the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision to grant same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide.

Despite these milestones, there is a significant gap in data on the financial and nonfinancial circumstances of both married and unmarried same-sex couples. While the impact of marriage for different sex couples has been well-documented, it has not been explored to the same extent for same-sex couples.

The So What

To fill that gap, BCG has conducted new and extensive research that suggests marriage equality for same-sex couples has contributed up to $125 billion to the US economy through additional net worth and consumer spend since 2004.

In March 2024, BCG surveyed nearly 4,000 individuals, both single and in relationships, across the US to understand their financial circumstances and sentiments. Our survey included a substantial number of individuals in same-sex married and unmarried relationships. (See “About Our Survey.”)

The key findings of the research are:

  • On average, married same-sex couples reported a median household net worth that is approximately $130,000 higher than that of their unmarried same-sex counterparts.
  • Married same-sex couples reported spending nearly $4,000 more each year than those who aren’t married.
  • 77% of individuals in married same-sex couples reported feeling more secure, committed, and settled compared with before they were married.
  • When compared to unmarried couples, individuals in married same-sex relationships reported higher life satisfaction (+17%) and lower incidence of anxiety and depression symptoms (-8%).

These trends remained even after controlling for other factors such as household income, education level, age, and the length of the relationship. While not causal, these findings suggest a strong correlation between marriage for same-sex couples and favorable financial and nonfinancial outcomes.

BCG estimates that over the past 20 years, those in same-sex marriages have collectively accrued more than $100 billion of additional net worth when compared to unmarried same-sex couples. They have also spent an estimated additional $25 billion. (This 20-year period covers the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples first at the state and later national level.)

That additional wealth has, in part, likely been generated because of more than 1,000 federal laws that provide significant advantages to married couples, ranging from preferential treatment in employment taxes to enhanced health-related benefits, social security, and retirement plans.

These advantages likely contribute to a positive financial position for both different-sex and same-sex married couples in comparison to unmarried couples. Married couples tend to have greater equity in housing, retirement savings, household income, stocks, and mutual funds than their unmarried counterparts. That means married couples reap the benefits of increased financial stability while also stimulating the broader economy.

Now What

The favorable outcomes of marriage for same-sex couples, on both personal finances and well-being, impact many Americans today and are set to increase in the years ahead.

As of 2022, the latest federal data available, the US Census Bureau reported approximately 741,000 households with same-sex married couples.

This number is anticipated to steadily increase, reflecting the growing proportions of Millennials and Gen Zers who openly identify as LGBTQ+.

Assuming these trends continue, and divorce rates remain stable, BCG projects there will be around 1.2 million same-sex married couple households in the US by 2043.

The positive financial and well-being trends of marriage equality are expected to directly impact these couples and their families while also translating into additional benefits for the US economy as a whole.

A full report on the research and findings will be published later this year.

About Our Survey

The survey of 3,928 people targeted a diverse demographic—focusing on married and unmarried same-sex couples—to gather data on household net worth, annual spending, life satisfaction, and mental well-being. Economic impacts were quantified by comparing median net worth and annual expenditures between married and unmarried same-sex couples. Findings at the household level were validated by controlling for demographic variables including age, education, and household income. The analysis was adjusted for annual inflation. The annual expenditure estimate was controlled for household income. Data sources to estimate the projected growth in same-sex married households included US Census Bureau and Gallup surveys and polls. Detailed methodology will be included with the full report later this year.

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