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The Gay Wage: Why We Earn Less than Straight Men

Pink Dollar

Despite the stereotype that gay men are condo-dwelling, Bellini-sipping, Prada-wearing, yuppie, urbanites, gay men in fact earn less money than straight men.

The Atlantic has reported that a study recently published in Gender and Society shows that, in Canada, partnered gay men earn 5% less than straight men with partners. On the flip side, lesbian women with partners earn about 8% more than coupled straight women.

The pattern is the same in the U.S.: Heterosexual men usually earn more money than gay men, who earn more than lesbians, who earn more than heterosexual women.

It is important to note that the study only looked at white men and women, because the intersectionality of race and sexuality would have thrown in too many factors that would complicate the study. 

While this isn’t news to anyone, what is interesting are some of the reasons for the pay gaps. 

For one, white gay men and women are in fact over-represented among the 15 highest-paying jobs. This is because gay people are twice as likely to hold bachelor degrees than straight people and are, therefore, well-positioned to take on jobs such as lawyers and doctors. 

That being said, apparently gays and lesbians tend to lean toward jobs in different industries than straight people. Gay men are less likely to work in STEM fields, for instance. 

The most fascinating and unfortunate finding from the study is that biases, conscious and subconscious, may have to an impact on the wage gap.

“One of the arguments that we put forward is that the remuneration practices in some of the most highly paid occupations…are more dependent on merit and performance pay,” says Sean Waite, one of the authors of the study. “These types of remuneration may allow for more arbitrary evaluation, from both bosses or coworkers, of an employee's worth. In other words, there may be more avenues for conscious or unconscious bias.”

Thus, it will take more than nondiscrimination legislation to close this wage gap; there needs to be a cultural shift as well. 

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