Self-Reported Sexual Orientation and Earnings: Evidence from California
Researchers using the 1988–96 General Social Survey (GSS) have found that behaviorally gay/bisexual men earn 15–30% less, and behaviorally lesbian/ bisexual women earn 20–30% more, than similar heterosexuals. This study uses confidential data on self-reported sexual orientation for 50,000 adults in California in 2001, providing more than five times as many respondents who identify themselves as sexual minorities as does the GSS. Previous approaches are extended by using more complete data on earnings, work effort, and job characteristics. Apart from the well-documented marriage premium, the author finds no statistically or economically significant independent effect of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation on earnings. There is some evidence that bisexual men and women earn less than heterosexuals. Analysis of more recent GSS data (including data from 1998-2000) suggests the findings of previous studies are somewhat sensitive to the time period considered.