February 1, 2024

Why Are Gay Guys Rich?

In popular culture, we see rich gay couples doting on their children and affluent gay men hosting talk shows. And this image has served the community well in terms of getting politicians and corporations to take its issues seriously – like marriage equality or reliable medical treatments for HIV/AIDS. But when you dig into the numbers, the picture is much more complicated. A new report by the Williams Institute on LGBT people and wealth finds that, despite a rise in incomes, many LGBTQ Americans face financial challenges that other Americans do not.

The authors of the report, economists Matthew Carpenter and Michael Eppink, say there are a few possible explanations for why gay men seem to be poorer than their straight counterparts. One is that improved attitudes about homosexuality might lift a penalty that had been caused by past prejudices against their employment, and this could be why the data show that salaries are rising.

But that explanation doesn’t fully explain why the same change in attitudes appears to have only lifted the gay male earnings penalty, and not that of lesbians or bisexuals. The other possibility is that a cycle of exclusion might be at play. Gay boys who hear coaches or other older players use homophobic language might find that they are not welcome on their team, and this may lead them to choose less lucrative careers in order to avoid the discrimination.

The researchers also looked at whether a person’s neighborhood amenities might be another factor in their wealth. They found that gay men are more likely to live in areas with access to cultural attractions, such as theaters and nature, than straight men.


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