Income and Education

In many data sources, gay and lesbian individuals report higher average levels of education than their heterosexual counterparts. For example, Black and colleagues (2000) derived such a result from GSS and NHSLS data and for partnered individuals from the 1990 census. The authors caution, however, that this finding could be driven, at least in part, by well-educated people being disproportionately willing to identify as gay or lesbian in the GSS and NHSLS or being disproportionately likely to identify as same-sex partnered in the census.

On average, it appears that gay men have lower incomes than heterosexual men with similar education and occupations (Allegretto and Arthur, 2001; Badgett, 1995; Black et al., 2003; Carpenter, 2007). By contrast, some research has suggested that lesbian women have higher incomes than heterosexual women (e.g., Black et al., 2007), although other studies have not found this difference (e.g., Badgett, 2001; Klawitter and Flatt, 1998). Regardless, it is important to note that, because of differential treatment with respect to taxes and insurance, even lesbian or gay couples whose gross incomes are identical to those of heterosexual men and women may have less disposable income. These factors may contribute to the finding of Black and colleagues (2007) that lesbians and gay men are less likely than heterosexual men and women to own their own homes.

Little research has examined economic outcomes for bisexual individuals specifically. Carpenter (2005) presents evidence from California that bisexual people fare less well than comparable heterosexuals (and comparable gay and lesbian individuals) in the labor market.

Finally, in the study described above, Rosser and colleagues (2007) found that transgender participants were more educated but reported less household income.


As is the case for heterosexual people, all age groups include lesbians and gay men. Similarly, all age groups include transgender individuals (Rosser et al., 2007). Nearly 20 percent of members of cohabiting same-sex couples are at least 55 years of age according to the 2000 census (Gates and Ost, 2004b). Self-identified gay men tend to be older, on average, than self-identified lesbians and bisexual men and women (Herek et al., 2010). Using GSS data collected between 1988 and 2002, Turner and colleagues (2005) found that the number of women who self-reported same-sex behavior was negatively correlated with birth cohort: younger women were significantly more likely to report such behavior. For example, 1.6 percent of women born before 1920 reported ever having had same-sex contact, compared

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