Over the last 20 years, gay men have earned between 5% to 10% less than straight men. But according to a new study, that’s changed. But it’s not equal — gay men earn more now. The study determined gay men often earn 10% more than their straight counterparts.
The study, led by Kitt Carpenter and Ph.D student Samuel T. Eppink, looked at data from a U.S. federal survey. In their analysis, they discovered the penalty they had expected to see had disappeared. It had turned into a premium; gay men with similar backgrounds and experience levels earned 10% more than straight men.
Since their results were so far off from what they expected, they double- and triple-checked to see if they could find any errors in their work. But all their tests showed that their conclusions were right: Gay men earn more. Things had indeed gotten that much better for gay men — at least economically.
At the same time, the researchers looked for rates among lesbians versus straight women. Historically, lesbians have earned more than straight women with similar backgrounds. While the researchers discovered this still held true, it held at the same rate past studies had shown. As Carpenter put it, “Is it plausible that it gets better for gay men but not ‘even better’ for lesbians?”
Why do gay men earn more now than straight men?
Carpenter’s outlined a few possibilities as to why this happens. The obvious conclusion is that things are, as Dan Savage said, getting better. He cites a recent Pew Research study that reported 92% of all LGBTQ adults feel society is more accepting than a decade ago.
Another theory is that, thanks to changing social attitudes and the legalization of same-sex marriage, gay households are changing. A theory from economist Gary Becker poses that gay male households could be mirroring the traditional nuclear family model where one partner works while the other stays home and takes care of the home. Or as Carpenter puts it:
A gay male couple who gets married may have one partner select out of the workforce to focus on caregiving responsibilities; this might make the other partner more productive at work, resulting in relative improvements in gay men’s earnings relative to those of straight men. If the relatively lower earning partner systematically selects out of the labor market, this productivity effect would be compounded by a compositional change in the sample of relatively higher earning gay men we observe working.
More research needs to be done — Carpenter even writes that the study “likely raises more questions than it answers.” But in the meantime, enjoy the extra cash in your wallet. You’ve earned it.
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