The Role of Apparent Sexual Orientation in Explaining the Heterogeneity of Wage Penalties Among Gay Employees

  • Thierry Laurent
  • Ferhat Mihoubi


This chapter constitutes an attempt to revisit the method used to assess wage differences based on sexual orientation, by assessing the impact on wage of apparent sexual orientation—instead of using actual sexual orientation as has always been the case in prior studies.

A two-step method has been used. The first step consists of an econometric estimation of sexual orientation as subjectively perceived—or assumed—by the employer; the second involves the use of so called “perceived sexual orientation” as an explanatory variable in a wage equation.

The econometric results show that “perceived sexual orientation” plays a crucial role in the wage equation. This emphasizes that wage discrimination is not homogeneous among gay employees: the wage gap between an employee “perceived” as gay by his employer, and another “not perceived” as such, is highly significant and larger than –6 %. Moreover, the method used allows estimating the individual cost of coming out in the workplace.


Wage discrimination Sexual orientation Queer economics 



This research has been conducted as part of the project Labex MME-DII (ANR11-LBX-0023-01). The authors thank Thomas Köllen for helpful comments and suggestions.


  1. Ahmed, A. M., & Hammarstedt, M. (2010). Sexual orientation and earnings: A register data based approach to identify homosexuals. Journal of Population Economics, 23(3), 835–849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Badgett, L. (1995). The wage effects of sexual orientation discrimination. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 48(4), 726–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barreto, M., Ellemers, N., & Banal, S. (2006). Working under cover: Performance-related self-confidence among members of contextually devalued groups who try to pass. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36(3), 337–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Black, D., Makar, H., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2003). The earnings effects of sexual orientation. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 56(3), 449–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carroll, L., & Gilroy, P. J. (2002). Role of appearance and nonverbal behaviors in the perception of sexual orientation among lesbians and gay men. Psychological Reports, 91(1), 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeJordy, R. (2008). Just passing through: Stigma, passing, and identity decoupling in the workplace. Group & Organization Management, 33(5), 504–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Falcoz, C. (2008). Homophobie dans l’entreprise. Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l’égalité (HALDE), Collection Etudes et recherches, La Documentation Française éd.Google Scholar
  8. Freeman, J. B., Johnson, K. L., Ambady, N., & Rule, N. O. (2010). Sexual orientation perception involves gendered facial cues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(10), 1318–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gaudio, R. (1994). Sounding gay: Pitch properties in the speech of gay and straight men. American Speech, 69(1), 30–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Johnson, K. L., Gill, S., Reichman, V., & Tassinary, L. G. (2007). Swagger, sway, and sexuality: Judging sexual orientation from body motion and morphology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(3), 321–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Laurent, T., & Mihoubi, F. (2012). Sexual orientation and wage discrimination in France: The hidden side of the rainbow. Journal of Labor Research, 33(4), 487–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pierrehumbert, J. B., Bent, T., Munson, B., Bradlow, A. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). The influence of sexual orientation on vowel production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116(4-1), 1905–1908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J., Gygax, L., Garcia, S., & Bailey, J. M. (2010). Dissecting “gaydar”: Accuracy and the role of masculinity–femininity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(1), 124–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rule, N. O., & Ambady, N. (2008a). Accuracy and awareness in the perception and categorization of male sexual orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1019–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rule, N. O., & Ambady, N. (2008b). Brief exposures: Male sexual orientation is accurately perceived at 50 ms. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(4), 1100–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Soucek, B. (2014). Perceived homosexuals: Looking gay enough for title VII. American University Law Review, 63(3), 715–788. Google Scholar
  17. Yoshino, K. (2006). Covering: The hidden assault on our civil rights. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EPEE, Center for Economic Policy Studies, Department of EconomicsUniversity of Evry-Val d’EssonneEvry CedexFrance
  2. 2.ERUDITE, Department of EconomicsParis-Est Créteil UniversityCréteil CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations