According to the authors, gay men who live together earn 23 percent less than married men, and 9 percent less than unmarried heterosexual men who live with a woman.
Lesbians, however, apparently do better than straight women:
The authors also found that lesbians are not discriminated against when compared with heterosexual women.
They conclude that while negative attitudes toward lesbians could affect them, lesbians may benefit from the perception that they are more career-focused and less likely to leave the labor market to raise children than heterosexual women.
Unless there was found to be no difference at all between the respective earnings of the two groups, this almost certainly indicates that lesbians earn more than heterosexual women do. Stating that lesbians are given preferential treatment, or that straight women are discriminated against, however, does not make sense as traditional or mainstream groups are incapable of being treated unfairly!
The actual paper isn’t yet freely accessible. Still, there are a few reasons to suspect that the insinuation that such discrimination is based on a disgust with homosexuality (that in a free market system companies would rather stick it to gays than turn as handomse a profit as possible) is inaccurate.
According to a paper released last year by the same two researchers, gay men work fewer hours than their heterosexual counterparts:
It is found that gay men supply less labour than married and unmarried heterosexual men. With regard to women, it is found that lesbians supply more labour and are more likely to be employed full-time than either married or unmarried heterosexual women.
The researchers based their latest study on 91,000 couples from The American Community survey that the US Census conducts each non-decadal year. There is no way to determine hourly wages from the survey, which inquires only about annual income.
So, unsurprisingly, straight men, in working the most hours, also receive the fattest paychecks. Lesbians, who work more than heterosexual women, show a larger number in the first box of their W-2s.
Why this pattern? In a traditional couple, the man tends to be the primary income earner, and the family follows his career.
That alone pretty much sums it up. In a two-male couple, if the duo dedicates itself to one of the member’s careers, just as a traditional couple would, the other member (like most married women) will generally earn less than the one who has the primary career. For lesbian couples, a similar pattern occurs. Thus, the male-female earnings discrepancy among heterosexual couples pushes the average earnings of the two indistinguishable gay partners somewhere in between.
Consider a simple hypothetical to see how this is explanatory. We have three couples (or 30,000, as it were), the Straights, the Gays, and the Lesbians. Guy Straight earns $50,000 a year, while Lady Straight, as the primary homemaker, works part-time around their other obligations to make $25,000 a year. Man Gay earns $50,000, while Guy Gay, like Lady Straight, makes $25,000. Woman Lesbian earns $50,000, and again, like her other two relational counterparts, Gal Lesbian makes $25,000.
Each couple, as a unit, earns $75,000 a year. Yet for the researchers, discrimination against gay men is found to be striking! Heterosexual men are making $50,000 on average, while gay men are only making $37,500. Lesbians, however, at $37,500, are doing fine relative to their heterosexual counterparts, who are only bringing home $25,000.
The need to distinguish between a working person and a primary breadwinner is enough to cast doubt on the entire study. As an entire household, gay men are rolling in it:
A Chicago market-research company, Overlooked Opinions Inc., recently released a demographic survey that found that gay men had an average household income of $51,325 and lesbians $45,927, compared with the national average of $36,520. …
The major findings of the Overlooked Opinions survey — that homosexuals tend to be more affluent and better educated; about 60 percent have college degrees, compared with 20 percent of the general population — were similar to those in a readership study of eight gay newspapers done in 1988 by Simmons Market Research Bureau in New York.
As individual members of a two-person unit, gay men and lesbians are, on average, going to trend toward the center when it comes to individual earnings (especially if the focus is exclusively on people who are living with a romantic partner, as in the case of this study), as they are filling both the breadwinning and homemaking roles in exactly equal proportion. Unless the two members of a gay couple are given identifiers comparable to ‘male’ and ‘female’ in heterosexual relationships, this necessarily must be the case.
So heterosexual men come out on top, followed by gay men, then lesbians, and finally straight women. Yet disproportionately ‘dinks‘ (dual-income, no kids), the gay demographic is one that has lots of disposable income.
But there are other reasons that have nothing to do with irrational discrimination, but instead with market forces in action:
Gay men working in management and traditional blue-collar, male-dominated jobs make less than straight men because they are discriminated against by their employers, according to new research released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics.
Gay men tend to be less masculine than straight men. Jobs that put a premium on virility (construction, factory work, law enforcement, etc) are going to be jobs that more virile men succeed in, all else being equal. Management is often comprised of people who started at the entry-level, and therefore of people who were good at the fundamentals of the work.
Although no mention has been made in the press about the study, I’d be willing to bet the lesbian advantage over heterosexual women is larger in these same fields than in more traditionally female-dominated positions (secretary, receptionist, etc).
For lesbians, another enormous advantage is the lack of child-rearing commitments relative to heterosexual women. To its credit, the study does make note of this:
According to their study, 18.1 percent of lesbians have children, compared with 49.4 percent of straight women.
Many companies now offer additional days off to parents contingent upon the number of children they have. Obligations to children interfere with the ability to work varying hours, put in overtime, etc. When a couple has (or obtains) a baby, one member usually must interrupt the career pursuit, especially for the first few years of the child’s existence. In heterosexual couples, of course, that task virtually always falls to the woman (about 4% of married men who do not work have spouses who do). In contrast, for the purposes of the study, it doesn’t matter which lesbian partner decides to take the lead role in child-rearing, to the ‘benefit’ of average lesbian earnings.
The study’s authors almost exclusively emphasize irrational discrimination as the reason for the earnings discrepancy. Even to the extent that this is occuring–the reasons to be skeptical laid out above being set aside for a moment–it is probably more accurate to surmise that it is the personal traits and behaviors of gay men, not their sexual orientation per se, that is causing the discrimination. Prudent people do not talk about their sexual lives in a business setting, whatever their particular predilection.