Sexual Orientation, Sexual History, and Inequality in the United States

Christina Curley

Much of the literature on sexual orientation discrimination reports earnings differentials for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals when compared with heterosexuals. The General Social Survey (GSS) has previously been used due to its extensive coverage of demographic variables and sexual behavior in the United States. This study uses updated GSS data to investigate whether the income differentials found in earlier work have persisted and how estimates based on categorizing respondents according to the reported sex of their sex partners compare to estimates based on the respondents’ self-reported sexual orientation. Results for the years 2008–14 indicate that self-identification as an LGB individual and/or same-sex sexual behavior are correlated with a lower income; however, not all the results are statistically significant. In addition, there is a statistically significant negative income differential of 32 percent for men who report having had a same-sex partner at some point, but identify as straight/heterosexual.

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