Coming Out in America: Aids, Politics, and Cultural Change

68 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019

See all articles by Raquel Fernández

Raquel Fernández

New York University - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Sahar Parsa

Tufts University

Martina Viarengo

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

The last few decades witnessed a dramatic change in public opinion towards gay people. This paper studies the hypothesis that the AIDS epidemic was a shock that changed the incentive to "come out" and that the ensuing process of mobilization and endogenous political process led to cultural transformation. We show that the process of change was discontinuous over time and present suggestive evidence that the 1992 presidential election followed by the "don't ask, don't tell" debate led to a change in attitudes. Using a difference-in-difference empirical strategy, we find that, in accordance with our hypothesis, the change in opinion was greater in states with higher AIDS rates. Our analysis suggests that if individuals in low-AIDS states had experienced the same average AIDS rate as a high-AIDS state, the change in their approval rate from the '70s to the '90s would have been 50 percent greater.

Keywords: AIDS epidemic, Cultural change, LGBT attitudes, Party politics, presidential elections, Public Opinion

JEL Classification: J15, P16, Z13

Suggested Citation

Fernández, Raquel and Parsa, Sahar and Viarengo, Martina, Coming Out in America: Aids, Politics, and Cultural Change (May 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13749. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3395186

Raquel Fernández (Contact Author)

New York University - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-8908 (Phone)
212-995-4186 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sahar Parsa

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Martina Viarengo

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) ( email )

Maison de la paix
Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2
Geneva, 1202
Switzerland

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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