The Earnings Effects of Sexual Orientation

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Date

2003-04

Authors

Black, Dan A
Sanders, Seth

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Abstract

This investigation of the effect of sexual orientation on earnings employs General Social Survey data from 1989-96. Depending largely on the definition of sexual orientation used, earnings are estimated as having been between 14% and 16% lower for gay men than for heterosexual men, and between 20% and 34% higher for lesbian women than for heterosexual women. This evidence, the authors suggest, is consistent with either of two complementary constructions: Gary Becker's argument that male/female earnings differentials are rooted in specialization within households and in optimal human capital accumulation decisions individuals make when they are young; and Claudia Goldin's observations about marriage-based gender discrimination, according to which the paternalistic "protection" of wives and mothers from the world of work has tended to overlook lesbians.

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