How many research papers can you read in half a year? Well, I know my answer: 70. Those 600-odd pages of research, plus the contents of ten books, were the sources I summarized for my new project “Gay Money: The Truth About Lesbian & Gay Economics.”
It’s a literature review of apparently every single paper written since the 1990s on the topic of income and earnings of lesbians and gay males. (I couldn’t get my hands on a paper by Escoffier, 1975; if you have it, do pass along a copy.)
This annotated bibliography isn’t simply a list of citations but a guide to what the econometric research tells us about gay money. And the tale that research tells is rather at odds with the mythology of gay marketing. That mythology holds that gays are “affluent,” a “dream market” with oceans of disposable income, in turn because we are “DINKs.”
Though I’ve been following the topic off and on since M.V. Lee Badgett’s Money, Myths, and Change came out in 2001, the catalyst was a ridiculous article in the Globe and Mail (2009.07.03) by Marina Strauss and Tara Perkins. “Looking for gold at the end of the rainbow” was the cringe-inducing hed for this piece, which preposterously proposed an entire new marketing category: Gay wine.
Even an Ontario winery is displaying the rainbow, on a new wine it calls Chardonngay ($1 from every $19.95 bottle sold goes to AIDS research).
“Gay people have better than average taste in wine and they have a lot of disposable income to spend on wines,” says Daniel Lenko, owner of his eponymous winery. “It might look a little bit campy or a little tongue in cheek. But a lot of people are waking up and saying, ‘Hey, these people have been ignored as a potential sale. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and do something about it.’”
The efforts can pay off handsomely. According to the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the GBLT demographic is estimated to have the collective buying power of
…and at this point I don’t need to continue excerpting the article, because it’s all bullshit from there. It is yet another lazy reiteration of gay marketers’ claims.
So I called up Tara Perkins, who astounded me when she claimed she and Strauss had “looked around” for information on gay economics and couldn’t find any. (Independent and verified information, I mean.) Apart from the fact that my own blog entries would have given a reasonable clue, it shocked me to learn that not one but two journos at a leading newspaper would commit an offence equivalent to asking a pharmaceutical company about the side-effects of a new drug or quoting a tobacco conglomerate on how safe cigarettes are.
Even business journalists with a pro-profit bias, as most or all of them have, couldn’t possibly just go right ahead and quote marketing figures as though they were fact. Could they?
Well, they did.
I decided to read all the research on the topic and summarize it in one convenient location so that nobody, not even Strauss or Jenkins, could ever make this mistake again and claim they couldn’t find the truth. (I gave Strauss and Jenkins a scoop [i.e., first crack at covering this project], and they punted.)
You don’t have to be an economist to understand what I wrote. I’m not an economist, and the whole shebang was written for civilians. I may have committed a wee mistake here or there, but on the whole my reporting of the findings is accurate, fair, and just detailed enough to keep you out of trouble.
Wait – did I forget to tell you the truth about gay money?
Here it is, and it’s a shocker: Gay males earn less money than straight males, most research shows, while lesbians earn more than straight women.
And what did you have in mind for wine this evening, gentlemen?