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Why do gay men earn more?
Gay couples earn more than any other demographic, but there are four curious reasons why. Find out why on this Queer Money®. Wealth building is one of the five building blocks of a happy gay life. Get your free copy of the 5 Building Blocks of a Happy Gay Life here.
Why gay men earn more money:
What factors are causing gay men to earn more money
Recent data reflects an apparent rise in income for LGBTQ couples. So, what’s behind this trend toward income equality? On this episode of Queer Money®, we’re sharing the top four theories around why same-sex couples are starting to earn more, explaining how living in cities with larger populations translates to jobs with higher pay—but not necessarily a guarantee of financial security.
We weigh in on how being less likely to have children gives us the opportunity to earn more and describe how code-switching at work may come with a financial benefit. Listen in for insight on how the gender pay gap gives gay men an advantage and learn how those of us who do earn more can use our privilege to promote income equality for everyone in the queer community.
Topics covered on gay men and income equality
1. We live in cities with larger populations
By the time many of us graduate high school and college, many of us are desperate to move to bigger cities to be around more LGBTQ folks. Twenty-six percent of the LGBTQ community lives in metro areas versus 22% of the general population.
Big cities are where the jobs are. Big cities are more expensive, so jobs in bigger cities pay higher salaries. With many queer people who live in bigger cities earning bigger city salaries, it gives off the appearance that, in general, queer people earn more money.
But fewer of us live in lower-income states, such as Alabama, Arkansas and Louisianna. That’s not to say that queer people don’t live in those states, but fewer of us do.
It’s important to note that income doesn’t define wealth or financial security. While many of us live in these cities with higher-paying jobs, bigger cities have higher costs of living. So, for many, it’s harder for us to live from paycheck to paycheck.
2. We’re less likely to have children
Only about 20% of LGBTQ people, according to the Williams Institute, have children. Fewer gay couples have children. Therefore, we have more flexibility and time to spend at the office. We can clock in more hours.
When David started his career in financial services, he was often asked to work late shifts, the weekends and holidays because “well, everyone else has a family.” David was happy to help the team out and earn the overtime, but this is a subtle form of discrimination, too.
Likewise, there’s always that team member who has to come in late or leave early because they have to drive their kids to this, that and the other thing. It’s nice that companies make these accommodations, but the work still needs to be done. Many single and LGBTQ people are left picking up the workload.
Interestingly, studies show that in same-sex households, 66% have both partners working. In opposite-sex relationships households, only 49% have both partners working. It’s also interesting to note that whether we’re married or unmarried and whether we have kids or don’t have kids, studies, including the most recent US Census, show that gay couples are likely to have both partners working. Lesbian couples are only a little less so. Straight couples are even less likely to have both partners working. A correlation could be made that the harder it is for a couple to have children, the likelier it is for both of them to be working.
Finally, not having children, at least of the human kind, also makes us more mobile. So, we can more easily pick up and move for a better or higher-paying job. We all have that friend who’s lived in five cities in five years, right? This mobility opens us up to more opportunities and more money.
3. The gender wage gap
Prudential’s 2012 LGBT Financial Experience Survey and its 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience Survey highlighted a sexual orientation and gender identity pay gap. Income based on sexual orientation is as follows:
- Bisexual men – $85,084
- Hetro men – $83,469
- Gay men – $56,936
- Hetro women – $51,461
- Lesbians – $45,606
- Bisexual women – $35,980
To follow-up on point number two above, despite having both partners working, same-sex male couples earn only about $17,250 more than opposite-sex married couples. For a demographic in which both partners are working their entire lives, that $17,250 difference is less than impressive.
All that said, we believe and the US Census believe, a more exhaustive study – not a survey – is needed to determine exactly what the wage gaps are and why. No organization has yet stepped up to the plate to conduct that study.
4. Many of us engage in code-switching at work
Code-switching is the act of modifying one’s behavior to adapt to cultural norms. Gays and lesbians who are more conforming or able to code-switch may have hidden their identity for years and thus were promoted without being discriminated against.
It isn’t right, in an effort to be treated equally, that we have to adapt who we are and live up to other people’s expectations. There’s also a level of unfairness that many gay men, lesbian women and bisexual people can code-switch, while many trans folks cannot. But it’s the reality of the heteronormative, patriarchal system in which we live and very evolutionary.
While code-switching may have its benefit for those who can do it and, again, it’s not right that we have to, studies show that not bringing our full selves to work inhibits our productivity and creativity. Thus, we’re not able to perform at our best and our employers aren’t able to get their best.
That said, the trend seems to be changing, and it’s changing where changes to cultural norms often start these days – in the arts. See Laverne Cox, Dominique Jackson, Janet Mock, Todrick Hall and others.
Other reasons why same-sex couples earn more
There are other reasons why gay men may be earning more. As Andrew Tobias talked about decades ago, many of us gay men spend an unhealthy amount of our lives focused on proving ourselves worthy. We’re all just broken little boys seeking mom and dad’s approval.
We also have high respect for higher education and, maybe to a fault, spend a lot of time and money earning all the degrees to prove we’re good enough for a job. As we’ve said before, studies show that it can cost an LGBTQ person over $50,000 in additional education, certification, unpaid wages and more to keep up with our straight peers. Again, it’s not fair, but it’s where we are.
Finally, LGBTQ acceptance across the board improving. Over 70% of the US population now supports same-sex marriage. We have a president and vice president doing what they can to afford more queer people more rights. Trans folks have more visibility than ever before in history.
None of this is to say that we’re anywhere close to where we need to be, but we’re a lot closer than we ever have been. More must be done and the fight won’t be easy, but we’re seeing strains of success.“For those of us who are seeing our incomes increase, we need to use this privilege to give a hand up to others in our community by encouraging a more diverse workforce and more transparency in pay.”Click To Tweet
This is the whole purpose of the Queer Money® podcast. The financially stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as individuals. The stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a community, and the better equipped we are to fund the organizations and politicians, and the more autonomy we have to continue the push for full equality.
Here’s your Queer Money® take-away from this episode: let’s rejoice that pay equality is starting to happen for some members of the community, while at the same time remember that for those of us who are seeing our incomes increase to use that privilege to give a hand up to others in our community by encouraging a more diverse workforce and more transparency in pay.
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