, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 391-408
Date: 11 May 2008

Sexual orientation, income, and non-pecuniary economic outcomes: new evidence from young lesbians in Australia

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Although there is a growing international literature examining the relationship between sexual orientation and income or wages, there is far less evidence on whether sexual minorities experience systematically different non-pecuniary economic outcomes. I use confidential representative data on over 9,000 young Australian women age 22–27 with information on self-reported sexual orientation, income, and non-pecuniary economic outcomes such as: workplace harassment, job search difficulty, work stress, and job satisfaction. After controlling for demographic and work characteristics, I find that in comparison to heterosexual women the young lesbians in my sample: (1) have lower personal incomes; (2) have significantly higher odds of reporting distressing harassment at work, difficulty finding a job, losing a job, and decreased income; and (3) are significantly more dissatisfied with and report more stress about economic aspects of their lives (e.g. work, career, money). Differentials for non-economic aspects of life are generally smaller. These results for young lesbians in Australia suggest that lesbians are not a universally “privileged” minority and highlight the need for more research into lifecycle variations into both pecuniary and non-pecuniary aspects of economic well-being.

Comments from the Editor, the Guest Editor, and multiple anonymous referees greatly improved previous drafts of this paper. I am grateful to the staff at the Research Centre for Gender and Health—particularly Deborah Loxton—for help in accessing and working with the confidential data. Participants at the 2005 APPAM Research Conference provided helpful comments. The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, The University of Newcastle and The University of Queensland.