Why are there more gay parents in private schools than in public schools?

Our fabulous babysitter, an elementary school teacher, made an interesting observation about the parents she has encountered in public versus private school settings. In her work at elite private schools in both New York City and the Boston area she routinely encountered students with gay or lesbian parents. She was surprised when her public school classroom didn’t have any out parents, and all the children were either living with a father and mother (or step-parents) or else a single mom or other female family member. It does seem strange–surely sexual orientation is not linked to social class.

But perhaps sexual orientation of parents is correlated to their likelihood to opt for a private school if they have the means to do so. It could be the case that gay or lesbian parents worry that their children will be teased or bullied in public schools for their family structure, and hence are more likely to choose private schools. Alternatively, if attitudes toward gay families are more favorable among people with higher incomes (I don’t know if this is the case, but my guess is that is true, especially given that poorer families are more likely to be immigrant families and coming from societies less accepting of alternative sexual identities). This would mean that people who are wealthy enough to send their children to private school are more likely to feel free to form the kind of family structure they want than those with fewer means. This is another form of inequality, related to sexual orientation and family formation.

Or maybe it’s just a coincidence–sampling bias…

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2 thoughts on “Why are there more gay parents in private schools than in public schools?

  1. This is a fascinating observation. I suspect it has something to do with the great effort and expense that many gay and lesbian parents must endure in order to become parents in the first place. Studies show gay and lesbian people face significant disadvantages in our tax, legal, and financial structures. I wonder if same-sex parents (or, at least, OUT same-sex parents) are are a somewhat self-selecting, socio-economic group who have the means and motivation to choose private school where they and their children might face less homophobia.

    • Thanks for your comment, Amy. You have a good point that gay and lesbian couples face financial disadvantages, not to mention complex processes for having children, which probably make wealthy gay and lesbian couples more likely to have children than those with less means.

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