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The Double-Edged Sword in Gay Economic Life: Marriage and the Market

Lee Badgett, University of Massachusetts - Amherst


The author offers what is lacking in many of the most hotly debated questions impacting LGB persons: empirical data. Here she examines the "double edged sword" of two such questions. The first is the role of LGB persons in the national economy. On the one hand is a popular stereotype that -- because we typically lack offspring and are two-salaried households -- we have more disposable income and are generally more affluent than heterosexuals. This is counterbalanced by concerns that this fact earns us resentment. In actuality, the stereotype is false, with gay men in couples earning an average 13% less than married heterosexual men. Similarly, despite the broad benefits of marriage, negative impacts can arise in the context of divorce, poverty ("state spending on public assistance would drop considerably if same-sex couples were allowed to marry or to enter civil unions"), and the income tax's marriage penalty. Overall, the article's disparate observations fail to coalesce into a sharp point, but the data bits are valuable in themselves.

Suggested Citation

Lee Badgett. "The Double-Edged Sword in Gay Economic Life: Marriage and the Market" Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice 15.1 (2008): 109-128.

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