Essays at the Intersection of Labor Economics and LGBTQ+ Studies

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jean Kimmel

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine Moser

Third Advisor

Dr. Cathryn Bailey


Economic, labor economics, sexual orientation, gender identity, survey design


This research examines labor topics such as poverty, employment, and earnings in the context of sexual and gender minorities. I expand on the existing literature via improved data selection and treatment; part of this improved data is in the form of a survey pilot1. I find that sexual and gender minorities (SGM) are at a disadvantage in the labor market compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. This is associated with higher poverty instances, which can be transferred to future generations and harms overall GDP. My work showcases these inequalities and promotes the need for more and better data to create effective policies that promote equality.

In my first chapter, “Sexual Minorities and Poverty in the United States,” I explore the relationships between revealing one’s sexual minority status and poverty. Much of the existing literature utilizes data where sexual orientation is an afterthought or where the researcher assigns orientation themselves (Badgett 1995; Klawitter 2015). Using data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), I include lesbian, gay, bisexual men and women, and queer men and women. While there are differences in poverty status by sex, only bisexual individuals are associated with a higher likelihood of poverty.

In my second chapter, “Sexual Minorities and Earnings Differential in the United States,” I investigate earnings differentials, again using NHIS data across sexual orientations, and find a gay male wage premium, unlike most early literature (Klawitter 2015; Carpenter and Eppink). Queer-identifying individuals appear to be worse off than their heterosexual counterparts, perhaps due to the stigma surrounding their “othered” sexual identity.

My third chapter relies on an independent survey data collection effort. The limited research at the intersection of labor economics and LGBTQ+ studies, while groundbreaking, is constrained by incomplete data. The call for more data and research on LGBTQ+ populations, particularly in economics, is not new. With Badgett’s seminal work in 1995, researchers were already calling for nationally representative surveys to include sexual orientation and gender identity questions. In response to this repeated call, I create and pilot an anonymous online survey that includes sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and socioeconomic questions. This is the first survey to focus on SOGI and socioeconomics topics. The main goal of this chapter is to inform future survey design. For this, I use a broad choice of sexual orientations and gender identities, including open-ended text response questions in the survey. Through personal narrative and a detailed description of the pilot findings, I reinforce the need for SOGI questions on nationally representative surveys and provide necessary insight into survey design that can inform future, larger survey efforts.

1 WMU IRB Approval on 2/17/2021 # 21-02-11.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Campus Only

Restricted to Campus until


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