LIANE HANSEN, host:
A new study reveals what many gay men may already know: that they make less money than straight men. The reason is discrimination by employers. But there's a wrinkle in the research. It also found that lesbians do not experience similar discrimination in the labor market.
In the Journal of Labor Research, Bruce Elmslie is the co-author of the article "Sexual Orientation and Labor Market Discrimination." He's a professor at the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics, which released the study.
Welcome to the program.
Professor BRUCE ELMSLIE (Economics, Whittemore School of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire): Thank you very much. Nice to be with you.
HANSEN: How significant then is the pay differential between gay men and straight men?
Prof. ELMSLIE: It's difficult to say directly what it is because there's a strong marriage effect. If you just look at a wage differential between married men and homosexual men, it's fairly sizeable. It's close to about 23, 24 percent. But if we compare gay males to heterosexual males who are coupled but are not married, the differential turns out to be around 9 percent, which is still fairly significant.
HANSEN: And where does the discrimination occur in the labor market? What kind of jobs are we talking about?
Prof. ELMSLIE: The bulk of the evidence consistent with discrimination is in more male-oriented, male-dominated jobs. They're traditionally management or blue collar jobs.
HANSEN: And why do the employers discriminate?
Prof. ELMSLIE: That's a hard thing to answer because discrimination can come from so many different sources. Employers could have problems with gay lifestyle. The discrimination could come from employees in a sense that if employees are uncomfortable with gay males, then an employer wouldn't want to hire gay males because it might disrupt productivity.
And discrimination could also come from consumers. You know, if I'm a consumer and I don't want to interact with a certain person, then the employer might see that and discriminate on that basis as well.
HANSEN: So get to this wrinkle. Why don't lesbians experience similar pay discrimination?
Prof. ELMSLIE: One reason. It's all - we always come back to it in the labor market literature - is female labor force attachments are different than male labor force attachments. And one reason for that could be that women are - bear the children. And when women bear children, they have the tendency to want to move out labor market for a while. So one reason why an employer may actually favor a lesbian woman over heterosexual woman is because of a perceived difference in the probability that they would become pregnant.
HANSEN: What motivated you to do this?
Prof. ELMSLIE: Well, it sounds kind of corny I supposed, but we're economists. And as economists, we're very interested in how the world works and what people are really experiencing when they go to market. The work that's been done on other types of groups, other types of discrimination on basis of race or gender as I've mentioned, it's fairly extensive. And when we're looking at the literature, we felt that there was a hole in the literature when it came to looking at discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
HANSEN: Mm-hmm. But bottom line: discrimination exists.
Prof. ELMSLIE: The bottom line is that the evidence is that in today's economy, there's still discrimination, especially against gay males.
HANSEN: Bruce Elmslie with Edinaldo Tebaldi co-wrote a study of pay discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Their article appears in the Journal of Labor Research.
Thanks very much.
Prof. ELMSLIE: Thank you.
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