All posts by Danielle Westermann King

Study: Pay Scales Tip Toward Gay Men

happy man with moneyOver the past few years, the world has made some great strides in the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015, same-sex adoption was legalized in all 50 states in 2016 and the transgender military ban was lifted in 2016.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen countries now recognize same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center.

And now new research has revealed that gay men no longer experience a negative pay discrepancy when compared with demographically similar straight men. In fact, gay men appear to have reached a 10-percent earning premium – meaning they earn more than their straight-male counterparts.

The lead researcher for this study, Christopher (Kitt) Carpenter, professor of economics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., examined available data on self-identified gay men, which is harder than it sounds.

Not only is the overall self-identified LGBTQ population small, approximately 2 percent to 3 percent, but surveys haven’t asked about individual’s sexual orientation until very recently, said Carpenter.

For this study, he examined data from the nationally representative National Health Interview Survey, which began including sexual orientation in its questionnaires in 2013.

“For the past 15 years, I’ve been crunching numbers from every single data set I can find that credibly identifies LGBTQ individuals and their economic details. And for more than 20 years, studies have all concluded that gay men, when compared with straight men who come from similar economic backgrounds, earned approximately 5 to 10 percent less. This is the first study that has shown the opposite may now be true.”

The 10-percent premium surprised Carpenter and his co-author so much that they ran extra tests to determine if this earning premium  was a coincidence.

All previous literature points to gay men earning less. But test after test revealed the same thing: Gay men are earning more than demographically similar straight men.

“This finding has raised more questions than answers,” Carpenter said. “What helped the pay scales tip in favor of gay men – is it new legislation, or perhaps greater acceptance of LGBTQ folks? If this is the case, the implications of this study are to look closely at what is it about the nature of the workplace that has changed. If it’s anti-harassment and discrimination policies that’s great and should certainly be evaluated closer.”

Scholars have long thought that sexual-orientation minorities spend a lot of time and energy closeting themselves, he added. “They spend time worrying about whether their colleagues are wondering about them, or, if outed, will they be fired? This means that LGBTQ folks can’t perform to their full potential. Anti-discrimination and harassment policies are catalysts to change this.  Creating safe spaces for LGBTQ folks to just be themselves will only foster a more productive environment in and out of work.”

Carpenter hopes that these results will compel HR leaders to review and refine their own compensation policies and procedures because there’s still an enormous amount of evidence that points to the nature of discrimination in the workplace.

For instance, a recent study conducted in India found that discrimination against LGBTQ individuals may cost the country an upwards of $32 billion a year in lost economic output. That type of loss certainly isn’t in the best interest of anyone.