Unequal Pay: The Gay Wage Gap. Does it Exist?

When I took my last position, I wondered if my sexuality would play into how much I would earn.  Being that I work for a state institution, I was thinking the chances were close to nil that my pay would be different than if a straight person took the position, but one never knows.  At least I wasn't going to get paid less than a female, right?  Maybe?

Most people acknowledge that male-female and black-white earnings disparities exist. But there's a popular narrative—that gay men are city-dwelling yuppies with expensive tastes—that perhaps obscures another inequality: the gay-straight wage gap.  A study recently published in Gender and Society found that in Canada, gay men with partners earn about 5 percent less than straight men with partners, while coupled lesbian women earn roughly 8 percent more than coupled straight women. (Canada’s data is particularly useful because the country legalized same-sex marriage nationwide 10 years ago, and the country’s census records relationship status, sexual orientation, educational background, and employment status all in one place.)

In the American pay hierarchy, the pattern is the same: Heterosexual men typically earn more than gay men, who earn more than lesbian women, who in turn earn more than heterosexual women. In the U.S., there is currently no federal legislation that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced to Congress in 1994 and reintroduced many times since then, still hasn’t passed. – TheAtlantic.com

Interestingly, the pay-gap trends examined in the Canadian study were especially strong in high-paying jobs. For example, straight men in senior management on average made about $183,000 each year, while the average for gay men was about $121,000. (Both of those figures are in Canadian dollars.)

Their findings—that gay men make less money than straight men and lesbians make more money than straight women—have been demonstrated before. One major review in 2007 found that gay and bisexual men earn between 10 and 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men, and other studies have found that lesbians on average out-earn straight women. So what might explain those gaps? – TheAtlantic.com

I thought it was good to be a DINK!  You know, Double Income No Kids?  These researches may agree with previous statements that being a DINK may be a factor that is hurting same-sex couple's drive, work ambition, and wallets.

There is another explanation for the gay-straight wage gap that has been tossed around for more than a decade. The theory goes that because men earn more money than women, gay men with partners who also work can count on having two sizable paychecks coming into their household. For this reason, they don’t feel the need to push as hard to make more money, so, on average, they make less than straight men. For lesbians, it’s the reverse: They might be compensating for having two female breadwinners by striving for higher earnings. – TheAtlantic.com

What do these researchers think may be another underlying factor?  As just stated, being a DINK may be working against you, but actually acting like you have a "dink" may be a positive thing.

The gay-straight wage gap is reflective of a larger trend that favors masculinity in the workplace. Gay men are still out-earning straight women, and lesbians, who may be, as Waite and Denier write, “perceived as less feminine and closer to the unencumbered male ideal,” also out-earn straight women. Similarly, transgender workers who transition to female see sharp drops in wages, while those who transition to male actually go on to make more money. Workplace discrimination against homosexuality should be rooted out, and with it the widespread bias against femininity too. – TheAtlantic.com

Does this mean lipstick lesbians do not make as much as more tomboyish women?  Does it pay to wear that pant suit to the boardroom?  Apparently so.  But what about the wage gap between races that we all know exists?  How does that play into this Canadian study?  Knowing about the obvious, these researchers left the race variable out of their research.

The study, done by two Ph.D. candidates in sociology at McGill University, Sean Waite and Nicole Denier, has one major caveat: It only looked at white men and women, because there are significant employment-related hurdles for people of color that would be hard to control for in the data. (Waite told me that he and Denier have plans to examine how ethnicity interacts with sexual orientation in the labor market.) – TheAtlantic.com

Take a click over to The Atlantic and see what else may add to the wage gap.  Other variables mentioned were the type of jobs and professions we choose, private or public sector, remuneration practices, merit and performance pay, and level of education.

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But then I thought, hmmm, Canada, a little more LGBT advanced than us and more accepting of gay marriage than us (legally).  Is this a good thing?  Maybe being way out and open and accepted is not the best. 

Here are some results from a 2012 Experian study done in the United States.

A look into individual earnings and household incomes shows that lesbian women earn more than heterosexual women regardless of relationship status. Specifically, the typical adult lesbian woman personally earns $43,100 per year compared with $37,600 claimed by the average heterosexual woman. Furthermore, the typical household income of a married or partnered lesbian woman is $7,200 higher than that of a married or partnered heterosexual woman.

When it comes to individual income, gay and straight men may earn roughly the same amount, but married or partnered gay men personally take home nearly $8,000 more, on average, than their straight counterparts. Additionally, the average household income of a married or partnered gay man is $116,000 versus $94,500 for a straight married or partnered man. – Experian.com


So the lesbians are still better off than the straight women, but this study finds the straight men and gay men are about the same in income with the gay male a little higher.  I doubt Experian left race out of the study.  Could race have this big of an effect on the results or is America really different than Canada?  Are we more accepting as employers, not out as work as much, or are there other factors we are not mentioning. 

The McGill study made me a little sad where as Experian's findings lifted me up a little.  I definitely know that being s straight woman is not an economic plus, being a lesbian is almost as bad, and having a penis is the best thing ever!  Apparently, depending on what side of the border you are and what you do with said penis will decide if your wad o' cash is fatter or thinner than the hetero wad. 

Which one should we follow?  Can there be a definitive study on "The Gay Wage Gap" when many are not able to be out at work for fear of losing their job, promotions, or pay? 

What do you see occurring at your workplace? 

If you are a business owner, do you help out your fellow gays a little more than the straights?

For more demographic and attitudinal information on the trends among the LGBT population, download the Experian 2012 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Demographic Report.

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