Why Do Lesbians Earn More Than Straight Women?

photo by janet calcaterra

Research shows that lesbian women earn more than straight women — even when you control for the facts that lesbian women tend to be better-educated, more likely to be white, live in cities, have fewer children, and more likely to be professionals. So how to explain this wage gap? Economics professor Marina Adshade of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, examines a hypothesis that it has to do with the division of labor in your typical heterosexual union. In short, the theory goes, a straight woman is raised with the assumption that she will most likely marry a man who earns more than she does for the same amount of work, and also that she will be taking on the lion’s share of at-home, unpaid labor. Which means that she is slightly less motivated that her lesbian peers to get ahead at work. Lesbian women — at least, as long as they have been gay — don’t make this assumption.

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  1. My mother earned twice what my father did – and she never let him forget it even after his mental breakdown. My sisters are also like that, and ruined their relationships by following that same line of criticism.

    My wife, to my great consternation, earned an advanced degree and then decided that she didn’t like what she had trained to do. She now makes a small fraction of what she could have in a job which doesn’t require that much education – and still expects me to support her champagne tastes on my McDonald’s income.

  2. In response to L.A.Lamb,
    You have 3 excellent examples of scenarios of very successful heterosexual women, but those scenarios may not be the norm which the researchers were attempting to explain. There are always going to be scenarios in which the statistical norm does not apply because statistics do not imply universal truth.
    I think that if lesbians tend to make higher salaries than heterosexual women, then it is interesting to hypothesize reasons for that. I wonder how much the average differ by, and how each average compares to the average amount earned by men?
    If it is true that hetero women make less on average because of ingrained cultural norms, then we need to know about that in order to make a concerted effort to raise our daughters to be the most successful women possible, no matter what the history of women in the workforce is.

  3. Before the lurkers & haters step up to bat, yes, I see the typos. It’s one of the hazards of using an iPhone to respond to a blog post. Don’t hate me because I fat-fingered a few words. I’m still human.

  4. I think the researcher’s hypothesis is a bunch of crap.
    A. I’m a straight, white, educates female who out earned two of the three men I’ve had serious relationships with. While I do not currently out earn my husband’s income, I’ve recently opened my own decorated apparel company and see self-employment a preferable to “working for the man”.

    B. I was raised in a suburban, middle-class, mostly Caucasian neighborhood by middle-class parents, BOTH of whom worked. That said, my mother significantly out-earned my father for much of their relationship.

    C. My mother was raised from the age of 3 to 14 by a single mother. She was raised with the mantra of “make your own money”, and though my parents were married some 55 yrs, she raised my sister and me with the
    same mantra.

    D. My heterosexual sister is married and living in suburbia and she too out earns her husband. She’s been with the same employer for 23 years, while her husband tends to jump around a lot.

    It’s all well and good to throw research and theories around, until reality steps in and upsets the whole apple-cart. I probably won’t out earn my airline-pilot husband for the forseable future, but I’m building a company I will likely be able to sell some day for a huge pay-off. And I’ll have the personal satisfaction of saying I DID IT MYSELF.

    Don’t sell us suburban, heteo, married girls so short!

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