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Weddings are expensive and the wedding industry is big business. As more states strike down bans on same-sex marriage, the economic boost of all those additional weddings is starting to be recognized as a big benefit for the U.S. In fact, a study by the data-driven financial analysis company NerdWallet Inc. estimates that if LGBT marriage was legal across the nation it could provide an increase in the economy of $2.5 billion.
The LGBT percentage of population in each state can be estimated through Gallup poll data. The study compared these figures to traditional marriage rates in the state, and then factored in the average cost of a wedding to project the economic impact. For example, Arizona has 3.9 percent of its population openly identified as LGBT. The state has a marriage rate of 0.8 percent and a population of 6.6 million. NerdWallet estimates that legalizing same-sex marriage would result in an additional 2,119 marriages per year. With an average Arizona wedding costing over $25,000, this comes out to an additional $53.7 million annually added to the Arizona economy. Similar calculations lead to an estimated economic increase of $180 million in Texas. As the most populous state in the nation California stands to gain the most through same-sex marriage – over $414 million.
Weddings are already a $51 billion industry in the U.S., employing over 800,000 people. The legalization of same-sex marriage opens new market opportunities in 32 states. It also boosts federal revenue from income and estate taxes. NerdWallet’s study used all 50 states for its calculations.
For NerdWallet’s analysis they looked at consumer spending on weddings, overall marriage rates, and the self-identified gay and lesbian population. Their analysis looked at long-term demand and average costs, since there are several current factors that may skew results. First, most states experience inflated demand when first legalizing same-sex marriage, as many couples that have waited for years for their opportunity to wed come forward all at once. Conversely, those same couples may opt for quick weddings at courthouses. As same-sex marriage legality becomes more commonplace the assumption is that same-sex couples will take the same care (and spend the same kind of money) planning their weddings as opposite-sex couples, and that they will have the same marriage rate.
According to Cost of Wedding, the average wedding in the U.S. costs $25,200, typically between $18,900 and $31,500, not including the costs of a honeymoon. Costs can include tuxedos, wedding dresses, hair and makeup services, entertainment, flowers and decorations, invitations, gifts and favors, jewelry, photography and a wedding planner, plus venue, catering and rental. The study assumes that LGBT couples would spend similar amounts on similar items in states where they could legally marry. The least expensive states to marry are Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi. The most expensive are New Jersey, New York and California.
Kevin Nix, spokesman for the gay rights group Freedom to Marry, said that the report provides a financial argument for same-sex marriage, saying that there is a family component but also a fiscal component to the unions. Gay marriage opponents disagree. Jonathan Saenz, executive director of Texas Values, a socially conservative group, said that the study used a model that would not apply to Texas. He said that Texas has been ranked as a top state for business for 10 years, and it is no coincidence that they have also prohibited same-sex marriage. Regarding California, he said that the state is ranked as one of the five worst states for business in 2014, and associates those poor results with same-sex marriage.
By Beth A. Balen