Eliminating Gender Wage Gap Would Reduce LGBT Poverty, Study Shows

For Immediate Distribution
June 2, 2015

Lauren Jow, jow@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — Closing the gender wage gap would have a significant impact on poverty rates among same-sex couples and different-sex couples, and would reduce the poverty wage gap between the two, according to a report released today by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The report, titled “The Impact of Wage Equality on Sexual Orientation Poverty Gaps,” examines which sources of wage differences – gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation – make the biggest impact on poverty among same-sex couples. Closing the racial and ethnic wage gaps would also reduce poverty rates for same-sex couples, while eliminating the sexual orientation wage gap would help men in same-sex couples.

“Sexual orientation discrimination creates economic problems for people in same-sex couples, but we reduce poverty the most for same-sex couples by closing the gender wage gap and racial and ethnic wage gaps,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, co-author of the study and Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, as well as Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Key findings from the report include:

• Eliminating the gender wage gap would reduce the poverty rate for women in same-sex couples from 7.9 percent to 5.4 percent.

• By eliminating the racial wage gap, the poverty rate for African American men in same-sex couples would fall from 14.5 percent to 10.9 percent. For African American women in same-sex couples, the poverty rate would drop from 24.7 percent to 16.9 percent.

• If Hispanics and non-Hispanics earned similar wages, the poverty rate for Hispanic men in same-sex couples would fall from 4.9 percent to 3.8 percent. For Hispanic women in same-sex couples, the poverty rate would drop from 9.2 percent to 7.4 percent.

• Women in same-sex couples tend to make more than women in different-sex couples. If they earned similar wages, the poverty rate for women in different-sex couples would fall from 6.6 percent to 5.8 percent.

• If men in same-sex couples earned similar wages to men in different-sex couples, their poverty rate would fall from 3.3 percent to 2.2 percent.

“If we close all forms of the wage gap – gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation – we reduce poverty rates for all couples and completely close the gap between same-sex couples and different-sex couples,” said Alyssa Schneebaum, Hertha Firnberg Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Vienna University of Economics and Business.

This report used data on same-sex couples and different-sex couples from the 2012 American Community Survey to assess the impact of several hypothetical reductions in wage gaps – between men and women, for people of color (the gap between white and black workers and the gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic workers), and for gay and bisexual men compared with heterosexual men.

Click here for the full report.