Study: Gay and Bi Men Earn Less, Lesbians Earn More, Than Straight Counterparts

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday July 31, 2021
Originally published on July 30, 2021

The tattered myth that gays are generally better off than their heterosexual peers took another hit with a new study that reconfirms gay and bisexual men earn less than straight men do.

Lesbians, on the other hand, earn more overall than heterosexual women.

The new paper, published today in the quarterly Journal of Population Economics, is the work of researchers from Anglia Ruskin University and was authored by university professor Nick Drydakis. It is a meta-study that surveys two dozen earlier papers to arrive at its conclusions.

"The papers cover the period between 1991 and 2018, and countries in Europe, North America, and Australia," the study's abstract states.

In addition to its main findings of a pay disparity, the study's abstract took note that "in data sets after 2010, gay men and bisexual men and women continue to experience earnings penalties, while lesbian women continue to experience earnings premiums" despite anti-discrimination efforts.

The continuing disparity "represents a cause for concern and indicates the need for comprehensive legislation and workplace guidelines" to address the gaps, the abstract added.

In terms of concrete numbers, the study found that "gay men earn on average 6.8 [percent] less than straight guys across all three continents," summarized British LGBTQ site Pink News, whereas the differential for lesbians is 7.1 percent more than straight women.

"But the pay gap is even larger for bisexual men, who take home a thumping 10.3 [percent] less than straight men," Pink News noted. "For bi women, the difference is 5.1 [percent]."

The numbers bring additional clarity to something researchers have been saying for years: That LGBTQ workers, overall, earn less than their straight, cisgender peers.

Research published in 2019 by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that "22% of LGBTQ people in the U.S. live in poverty," in contradiction to the persistent myth that gays are rich. By contrast, the study showed, the rate of poverty among heterosexual people in the U.S. is 16%.

But that data may not show the full extent of the problem as it exists in 2021. LGBTQ workers "have been especially hard hit throughout the economic recession that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic," according to a "study by Human Rights Campaign and PSB Research," which showed that "17% of LGBTQ people polled lost their jobs because of COVID-19, compared to 13% of the general population," the Philadelphia Gay News reported last November.

"For LGBTQ people of color, the numbers were even more disproportionate: 22% reported losing their job because of the pandemic, compared to 14% of white LGBTQ people polled," the report revealed.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.