On Equal Pay Day, LGBT People Experience Gaps in Wages

Our guest blogger is Joshua Garcia, an intern with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

Today marks the seventieth annual Equal Pay Day, which serves as an important reminder that women and people of color continue to complete equal work for unequal pay. Women, for example, made on average only about 77 cents for every dollar men made in 2010. According to the Center for American Progress, LGBT workers also perform equal work for unequal pay, which inflicts significant economic harm on them and their families.

Recent research and data reveals that gay men earn 10–32 percent less than straight men with similar productive capacities. These findings hold true even when controlling for education, race, experience and occupation. Wage disparities are less clear for women. On average, gay and bisexual women earn equitable or sometimes more wages than straight women, yet they still earn significantly less than both gay and straight men. For transgender individuals, transgender women earn significantly less after their gender transition while transgender men earn slightly more. Additionally, gay employees in the public sector earn significantly less (8 to 29 percent) than straight employees, revealing that public-sector discrimination is no different than that which occurs in private employment.

LGBT people are more economically vulnerable than their non-LGBT counterparts due in part to these wage disparities. Contrary to common stereotypes, the average household income for same-sex couples with children is 20 percent lower ($15,500) than straight couples raising children. These wage disparities similarly cause high poverty rates in the LGBT community. For example, children with same-sex parents are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to children living with straight married parents. Transgender individuals face similar circumstances. 15 percent of transgender Americans report making less than $10,000 per year — a rate of poverty that is quadruple that of the general population.


In addition to discrimination in pay, LGBT Americans suffer from high rates of discrimination in hiring and firing, leaving many jobless and without a means to support their family. Employment discrimination also harms businesses by introducing numerous costs and inefficiencies that detract from companies’ bottom lines.

LGBT people strongly need comprehensive federal workplace protections. What they need is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would prevent the firing of employees on indicators irrelevant to workplace performance, such as sexual orientation or gender identity. Notably, nondiscrimination laws such as ENDA would also make wage discrimination against LGBT workers illegal.

Everyone in America deserves the right to work to ensure the health and wellness of them and their family, regardless of how he or she lives or whom he or she loves. On Equal Pay Day, our lawmakers should take swift action to help right this wrong.