Study: Lesbians in U.S. Earn 20% More Than Heterosexual Women

CNN has been giving hourly updates to hype claims that a religious freedom law in Indiana could unleash hateful discrimination against gay people. This appears to be a media-driven hysteria. Nineteen other states have laws similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is modeled after a federal law Bill Clinton signed. Yet the question needs to be asked: Exactly how much workplace discrimination do gay people face and what is its impact?

This chart is from the Germany-based Institute for the Study of Labor, and is from a study which found that lesbians in the United States earn 20% more than do heterosexual woman. Although I’m not sure if I trust these findings, let us stipulate that the study is accurate and ask: Why is this so? Is it because employers are pro-lesbian? Are companies prejudiced against heterosexual women?

Keep in mind the oft-quoted claim that women earn 77 cents on the dollar in comparison to men. As critics of that statistic point out, once you account for differences in education, occupation and other variables, the male-female “wage gap” disappears. That is to say, actual differences between men and women — not sexist discrimination — explain the disparity of earnings. Could this also be true in regard to the lesbian/straight “wage gap” among women? Yes, obviously so.

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One reason for the male-female “wage gap” is simply the fact that women are more likely to leave the work force and stay home with their children. Women have a lower work force participation rate than men and, if motherhood explains most of the “wage gap,” it is obvious that this factor would benefit lesbians, who are less likely to become mothers. Interestingly, we find that a very different scenario is evident in the institute’s findings about the earnings of gay men.

According to the same study, gay men earn 16% less than do their heterosexual male counterparts. If earning differentials were caused by discrimination inspired by anti-gay prejudice, we might expect that both male and female homosexuals would show less income than heterosexuals. Yet it appears otherwise, and we can only conclude that other variables — not prejudicial anti-gay discrimination — are the decisive factor in this pattern. What are those variables? We don’t know, but permit me to suggest a controversial hypothesis: Differences in sexual orientation are not random and insignificant; rather, sexuality tends to be a sort of psychological dye-marker for personality types, and differences in personality result in differences in behavior that, in turn, produce differences in earnings.

We need not think in terms of sexist or homophobic stereotypes to accept this hypothesis. Gay men and lesbians often joke about the differences between them. There is a well-known joke:

What does a lesbian bring to a second date?
A U-Haul.
What does a gay man bring to a second date?
What’s a ‘second date’?

In other words, gay male culture is notoriously promiscuous, whereas lesbians are equally notorious for their preference for long-term intimate relationships, so that by the second date, they’re ready to move in together. And the legalization of same-sex marriage has demonstrated this tendency, as 64% of such unions are between two women, so that lesbian weddings outnumber gay male weddings nearly 2-to-1.

Doesn’t this data offer potential clues about the income differentials between these two groups? That is to say, if lesbians earn substantially more than straight women but gay men earn substantially less than straight men, isn’t it possible that this is due to the same personality and behavioral differences we observe in the data about same-sex marriage? Once we accept the premise that differences between men and women are both real and significant — rather than imaginary or artificial “social constructs” — it stands to reason that sexual preference would reflect differences that are also real and significant. Correlation is not causation, but neither are correlations in social-science data entirely random.

Angry protests about the possibility of anti-gay “discrimination” in Indiana fail to take into account the question of whether policies that forbid discrimination are either necessary or efficacious. As we have seen most recently in the Ellen Pao case, “equal opportunity” law has the effect of inciting lawsuits by disgruntled employees who cannot prove they are victims of prejudice. If we are willing to accept that general differences between men and women (or between gays and lesbians) are both real and significant, a lot of what might otherwise appear to be “discrimination” is really nothing of the kind.

“Actually, it’s mostly about satisfying the Democrats’ core constituencies’ bottomless desire to feel morally superior.”
Professor Glenn Reynolds

Those of us who favor economic liberty believe that human beings are capable of acting rationally in their own self-interest. We believe that businesses should have wide latitude in their personnel policies for this reason. The managers of an enterprise have the responsibility of maximizing productivity, and decisions about hiring and promotion are essential to that responsibility. Managers ought not have their personnel decisions constantly subjected to scrutiny by quota-mongering “social justice” activists who have no responsibility to anyone other than themselves and slogan-shouting protest mobs.

Men and women are different. Gays and lesbians are different. It is not “hate” to say so. It is simply the truth.

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Robert Stacy McCain
Robert Stacy McCain is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of experience in the news business. He is a correspondent for The American Spectator, editor-in-chief at Viral Read and blogs at

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