Urvashi Vaid is still around and is still lecturing us that the fight for gay rights isn’t enough. Refreshingly, what we’re also supposed to be fighting for isn’t transgender rights but basically everything else. Including “economic justice.”

  • Things start off badly when Vaid declares that, “30-plus years later, formal equality for women has not removed the glass ceiling for women in top jobs, not transformed women’s role in families, and not produced equal pay for equal work – men still earn $1.22 to every dollar a woman earns.” Any of these points marks the speaker as something other than a serious and informed person, but here we’ve got three half-truths to deal with.

    • Women don’t want or pursue or apply for “top jobs” at anything resembling the rate hetero males do. In part that is because women choose to have children and drop out of the labour force to raise them, which in turn permanently depresses their earnings if and when they go back to work.

      What Vaid describes, in effect, as three strikes against the economic equality of women that were implicitly engineered by men or by some kind of “system” are actually two strikes: Women’s lower greed, ambition, and bloodthirstiness and the biological reality of childbearing and motherhood.

    • Next, the actual female–male wage gap is considerably smaller than 22% and disappears to half that or less once you control for age, education, years of experience, and continuity of work. I have not read a viable explanation for the gap that remains, but it is false to imply that any randomly-selected woman earns 22% less than any randomly-selected man – or even a man doing what seems like the exact same job. (Nor is the gap wholly attributable to illegal discrimination.)

      There actually is no discernible wage gap when gay-male couples and lesbian couples are studied; most research agrees that both kinds of homosexual couples earn similar wages, though there definitely are researchers who disagree.

    Anyone who drops numbers like these is trying to make an emotional argument that things are just terrible for women in economic terms. They are not trying to make anything resembling a factual point.

  • Vaid is somewhat less inaccurate in describing gay and lesbian economics:

    [P]overty in the LGBT community is at least as common as poverty in the broader world. Just as in that broader world, it burdens people of colo[u]r disparately.

    Median household income for LGBT people ranges from $35,000 in the poorest states to $65,000 in wealthier ones. LGBT families are twice as likely to live in poverty as are heterosexual families…. African-American people in same-sex couples and same-sex couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor than white or urban same-sex couples.

    Vaid quotes various “think tanks” she obviously approves of, but I have read the research.

    • If for some reason we want to discuss gay money in terms of “poverty,” then Prokos 2010 is the gold standard. And that paper showed that the poorest couples were unmarried heterosexuals.

    • “People of colour” who are gay or lesbian are poorer because they have lower incomes to start with (consistent with Vaid’s implied message). But they are also more likely to have children, a fact she didn’t mention but one that her preferred think tanks have documented.

    • Rural incomes are lower for gays for all the same reasons they are for straights. I just don’t see us at a disadvantage there.

    • Vaid’s claims about median income don’t mean a thing because they aren’t given in comparison to anything else, like cost of living or heterosexual median incomes.

      She can’t get something basic like that right, so the chance she could get the following right is nil: Because of the smaller number of people involved, median and mean incomes for gay males are more readily distorted by high-earners, so for the male side of the discussion her stated numbers are possibly higher than the real numbers. (That’s why the U.S. Department of Census data show enormously higher median incomes for gay and lesbian couples than any other source – outlier millionaires are included there, while they are usually excluded from econometric studies.)

      In effect, median incomes for gay males are surely even lower than the numbers she cites, which are still meaningless because they are given in no context whatsoever.

    • The term “LGBT” is as harmful here as elsewhere. Barely any economics research studied bisexuals, and I am aware of none that studied transgenders the same way lesbians and gays were studied. The entire discussion of lesbian and gay economics is about exactly that, not “LGBT” economics.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2012.05.11 13:25. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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