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The truth about gays and money
Finance Home. Markets closed. Chaitra Anand. Yahoo India Finance July 10, What to Read Next. The Independent. Associated Press. Yahoo Finance Video.
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Yahoo Finance. Simply Wall St. Each year, approximately 35, households were surveyed and, consistently, 2 to 3 percent of respondents each year identified as sexual minorities.
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The researchers focused on earnings data for adults aged 25 to 64—in other words, people who are likely to be finished with their education. What they found was that, consistent with previous research, lesbians continued to out-earn straight women.
In contrast to the earlier data, however, it turns out that gay men now earn more than straight men. That said, when accounting for differences in employment status lesbians were more likely to have full-time work than straight women, while gay men were less likely to have full-time work than straight men and other differences between groups, the overall earnings premium for both lesbians and gay men translated to roughly 9 to 10 percent.
The question then becomes why: Why are both gay men and lesbians out-earning their heterosexual counterparts? There are several potential explanations. One possibility is that it's a function of increased LGBT acceptance and less anti-gay discrimination.
However, while that could explain why the wage gap between gay and straight men has closed, it's not clear why it would translate to an earnings premium for gay men. Plus, these data simultaneously show that gay men are less likely to be employed than straight men. As the authors of this study point out, "to the extent that the lower employment partly reflects discrimination against gay men, it is hard to imagine earnings improving substantially but not employment.
Another issue with this explanation is that the lesbian data were right in line with earlier studies—so why would increasing LGBT acceptance only influence gay men's earnings while having no effect on lesbians?
But it's a small consolation for lower job security.
An alternative possibility is that maybe there's a selection effect in terms of who is coming out today. For example, maybe being out about one's sexuality is disproportionately likely among sexual minorities who are more highly educated and have other characteristics that increase their odds of higher earnings.
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This explanation gains appeal when you compare the demographics of gay and heterosexual men in this sample: Gay men were more likely to hold a college degree and less likely to be high school educated, a higher percentage were white, and far fewer were married with children. In addition, gay men were more likely to live in the Western US, while being less likely to live in the Midwest.
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Lesbian and heterosexual women also differed, but in fewer ways: Lesbians were more likely to be college educated and less likely to have children. It's important to note that the gay and lesbian earnings premium was still observed even when the researchers statistically controlled for these differences; however, the fact that gay and straight folks differed in so many ways suggests that there could be other, unaccounted for differences between these groups that could potentially explain the wage differences. We need more research to replicate these findings and also to determine which, if any, of the above explanations for them are correct.
However, the take-home from all of this should not be that gays and lesbians are being paid more because of their sexual orientation.