What Does the LGBT Pay Gap Look Like?

by Emma Cueto

Over the past year or so, the gender pay gap has gotten a lot of attention here in the US; so, to a lesser extent, has the race pay gap. Now, an Australian study has added an important and hitherto missing element to the conversation: The LGBT pay gap. All I can say is, it's about time.

Based on a new report from professors at the University of Melborne, it seems that there is indeed an LGBT pay gap, at least in Australia. Going off of the 2012 Australia HILDA survey, which included responses from over 10,000 people, they found that gay men, on average, earn 18 percent less than their straight, male counterparts. Gay men are also more likely to be unemployed and to face additional difficulty when it comes to career advancement.

Employer discrimination is likely a major part of the explanation for these wage gaps, especially in the case of gay men,” explained Professor Wooden, one of the authors behind the study. And, in fact, discrimination seems especially likely given the report also found that the pay gap tends to be larger for gay men who openly live with a partner.

So much for the stereotypes that gay couples are always rich because they tend to have "dual income, no kids."

Interestingly, for lesbians, the researchers actually found that overall lesbians earn 33 percent more than straight women; however, it's not due to being favored in the workplace so much as it is to being less likely to have children. As of 2012 in Australia, 59 percent of straight women aged 30 to 49 had children, compared to only 22 percent of lesbians, meaning lesbians are more likely to work more hours and less likely to take time away from their careers.

“Lesbian women, predominantly, the reason why they earn more is because they work more,” Professor Woodsen told BuzzFeed News. “They don’t earn any more per hour.” Still, in terms of total income, not having kids does have an advantage.

And as for bisexuals, the study found that both bi men and women tended to experience lower wage growth over the course of their career than their straight counterparts. They also found that bi women were up to 18 percent less likely to be employed than straight women.

The report does not seem to have looked closely at transgender earnings in Australia.

So how does that compare with the US? Well, there doesn't seem to be as much research on the LGBT wage gap as there is for women or people of color, but what findings we do have are broadly consistent with the Australian study. Gay men in the US earn 10 to 32 percent less than their straight counterparts, while lesbians in the US still out-earn straight women in terms of total income. Also, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people in the US are four times as likely to have an annual income below $10,000 than cis people.

In other words, the LGBT pay gap is real, and can be found all over the world. This, of course, in addition to other forms of discrimination.

So how do we fix it? Well, we can start by talking about it. As long as there's going to be a national conversation about pay inequality — and there should continue to be a national conversation about pay inequality as long as the problem persists — then we should not only focus on gender — and not only pay more attention to race — but also include the issues faced by LGBT people in the workforce in the conversation. Because the work isn't going to be over until every group has equal pay, so we might as well be talking about it now.

Image: Giphy