Gay money

The truth about lesbian & gay economics

Basic facts

I spent six months in 2010 reading and summarizing every article on lesbian and gay economics published since the 1990s. I took on this project to counter a myth. “Myth” in this case means “falsehood” or “lie,” not just “tale” or “story.”

Myth: Gays are rich

The myth of gay money holds that “gays” (really just gay males) are high-income or rich. Why? Mostly because they don’t have kids, especially not when two guys live together. (That would make them DINKs.)

This myth was relentlessly propagated through the 1990s and persists today. Maybe you couldn’t put your finger on where you heard it (perhaps in a newspaper article?), but the stereotype is out there. And it isn’t true.

Reality: Gay males earn less and lesbians earn more than straight people

Most of the dozens of studies of income and earnings of gay men and lesbians show consistent results. There are two ways to state these results.

Either way, most of the data shows that gay males do not earn more than straight people. That means “the gay community” – again, really just gay males – is not “affluent” or richer than heteros are.

Why?

Why do gay males have generally lower incomes than straight males?

Why do lesbians generally have higher income than straight females? It’s almost the inverse of the gay-male trend.

What about discrimination? It’s a ready excuse to explain away the “few” gays who don’t meet the stereotype of being affluent. (That’s what press coverage would tell you – that just a few of us aren’t affluent. In reality, it’s most of us.) But the statistical evidence for discrimination as a cause of lower gay incomes is weak at best, and of course falls down completely in the case of lesbians, who, most studies agree, have higher incomes than straight females. Discrimination is clearly a factor sometimes; it just isn’t a credible explanation for the whole effect, which doesn’t apply to half of the population we’re talking about.

Exceptions

Trends always have exceptions.

Could these findings be wrong?

Yes. But they probably are not wrong for the subjects they study – couples.

Getting reliable data on gay and lesbian couples is important because the myth of gay affluence is all about gay-male couples. The available data compares apples to apples.

It is still possible that even this consensus of economists could still be totally wrong all the way down to the last detail. Science has gotten it wrong before.

But it isn’t very likely. The scientific consensus holds that gay males earn less than straight males and lesbians earn more than straight women. As best as we can determine, these are the facts.

Posted: 2010.11.16