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

65 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 20 Mar 2021

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: March 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.

Suggested Citation

Fernández, Raquel and Parsa, Sahar and Viarengo, Martina, Coming Out in America: Aids, Politics, and Cultural Change (March 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25697, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3363433

Raquel Fernández (Contact Author)

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

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Sahar Parsa

Tufts University ( email )

Martina Viarengo

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

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

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