Having received less attention than other notable pay gaps, data shows that LGBTQ+ communities also suffer from this issue. Despite recent progress, there is little discussion on how sexual orientation and gender identity relate to income inequality although various studies point towards discrimination in the workplace against LGBTQ+ members, especially bisexual and transgender workers. Nick Drydakis found that fewer than 20% of countries have adopted sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws in employment.
A pay gap refers to the difference in the average earned income between two groups of people, hence, the LGBTQ+ pay gap explains the disparity in wages across sexual orientations and gender identities. Looking at 29 studies on wages and sexual orientation, Marieka Klawitter found an average earnings premium of 9% for lesbians over heterosexual women, compared with a penalty of 11% for gay men. This is after adjusting for the fact that on average, lesbians are more educated than straight women and that they are less likely to have children. Lesbians having a wage premium does not make them privileged, in fact, poverty rates among lesbian couples are 7.9%, compared with 6.6% among heterosexual ones.
As The Economist states, “research on this topic should be taken with a pinch of salt”. Understanding why there may be a premium for lesbians and a penalty for gay men is still something researchers are currently studying and doesn’t quite understand yet. Some believe it could be because same-sex couples don’t usually partake in childcare or housework which in turn gives them more time to devote to the workplace.
- Nick Drydakis. (December 2014). IZA World of Labor. Anglia Ruskin University, UK, and IZA, Germany.
- https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/111/pdfs/sexual-orientation-and-labor-marketoutcomes.pdf S.K. (February 2016). The Economist.
- https://www.economist.com/the-economistexplains/2016/02/15/why-lesbians-tend-to-earn-more-than-heterosexual-women Marieka Klawitter.
- (December 2014). Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/irel.1207