Economics of LGBTQ+ Individuals Virtual Seminar Series

Wednesdays at Noon ET (16:00 UTC)


The one-hour seminar includes a 35-minute presentation by the author and 25 minutes for questions and discussion. Please contact Michael Martell at with any questions or feedback.

Please sign up to receive the link to the Zoom meeting each week.

Upcoming Seminars

July 15, 12:00 ET
Ralph Dehaas (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, CEPR, and Tilburg University) will present “Men. Roots and Consequences of Masculinity Norms” (with Victoria Baranov and Pauline Grosjean)

Abstract: Recent research has uncovered the historical roots of gender norms about women and the persistent impact of such norms on economic behavior. We document similar roots and consequences of masculinity norms: beliefs about the proper conduct of men. We exploit a natural historical experiment in which convict transportation in the 18th and 19th century created a variegated spatial pattern of sex ratios across Australia. We show that areas that were heavily male-biased in the past (though not the present) remain characterized by more violence, higher rates of male suicide and other forms of preventable male mortality, and more male-stereotypical occupational segregation. Further evidence indicates that in these historically male-biased areas, more Australians recently voted against same-sex marriage and that boys—but not girls—are more likely to be bullied in school. We interpret these results as manifestations of masculinity norms that emerged due to intense local male-male competition and that persisted over time through peer socialization in schools.

August 26, 12:00 ET
Raquel Fernandez (New York University) will present “Coming Out in America” (with Sahar Parsa and Martina Viarengo)

Abstract: The last few decades witnessed a dramatic change in public opinion towards gay people. We study the hypothesis that the AIDS epidemic unified the gay community under a common cause, endogenously generating a political process that led to cultural transformation. Using a difference-in-difference empirical strategy, we find that, consistent with contact theory and/or greater exposure to the AIDS epidemic, greater mobilization and local media coverage, opinion change was greater in states with higher AIDS rates. Our analysis suggests that had individuals in low-AIDS states lived through a similar experience, their approval rate would have been 50 percent greater.

Previous Seminars

April 15, 2020, 12:00 ET
Ian Burn (University of Liverpool) will present “Gender Typicality and Sexual Orientation Earnings Differentials” (with Mike Martell)

Abstract: Previous research on sexual orientation based earnings differentials has repeatedly documented asymmetry in the effect of sexual orientation on earnings.  Gay men earn significantly less than their heterosexual counterparts, and lesbian women earn the same or more than their heterosexual counterparts. The difficulty of reconciling the asymmetric earnings effects with theories of discrimination has posed a challenge for researchers interested in understanding the cause of sexual orientation based differentials.   We leverage the rich data on personality and behaviors found in the National Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to test the commonly suggested theory that the asymmetry in the sexual orientation earnings differential reflects perceptions of masculinity and gender typicality. We measure adherence to gender typicality using a gender diagnostic approach.  While we find evidence that adherence to gender typical norms does affect labor market outcomes of men and women, we find no evidence of a differential effect for gays and lesbians. Controlling for these factors does not affect the gender asymmetry of the sexual orientation earnings differentials observed in the Add Health.

April 22, 2020, 12:00 ET
Shuai Chen (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research) will present “Mental Health Effects of Same-Sex Marriage Legalization” (with Jan van Ours)

Abstract: Gay men and lesbians often have a worse than average mental health condition. This may have to do with social acceptance of same-sex relationships. If so, one would expect that legalization of same-sex marriage improves mental health of sexual minorities. To investigate this we study the mental health effects of same-sex marriage legalization (SSML) in the Netherlands. Using Dutch registered micro data we apply a difference-in-differences approach comparing mental health before and after SSML of individuals with a different sexual orientation. Our evidence suggests that the legalization improved mental health of both gay men and lesbians making their mental health converge to heterosexuals. 

April 29, 2020, 12:00 ET
David Schwegman (American University) will present “Do Foster Care Agencies Discriminate Against Gay Couples? Evidence from a Correspondence Study” (with Mattie Mackenzie-Liu and Leonard Lopoo)

Abstract: There has been considerable recent debate regarding proposed policies that would allow foster care administrators to discriminate on the basis of the sexual orientation of the foster parent. To date, however, we know very little about the level of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the foster care system. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical investigation to ask whether foster care agencies, the public and nonprofit firms that facilitate foster care placements, respond similarly to emails sent by fictitious same-sex and heterosexual couples who inquire about becoming foster parents. Our results suggest that, while foster care agencies respond at somewhat similar rates to gay male couples, gay female couples, and heterosexual couples, responses sent to gay males are of lower quality. Gay males receive much shorter responses that take longer to receive. Responses to gay male couples are also less likely to include essential information about the process of becoming a foster parent, such as details about informational sessions or being given an application. We do not find any evidence of differential treatment towards same-sex female couples.

May 6, 2020, 12:00 ET
Kitt Carpenter (Vanderbilt University) will present “Effects of the Affordable Care Act Dependent Coverage Mandate on Health Insurance Coverage for Individuals in Same-Sex Couples” (with Gilbert Gonzales Jr. Tara McKay and Dario Sansone)

Abstact: A large body of research documents that the 2010 dependent coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act was responsible for significantly increasing health insurance coverage among young adults. No prior research has examined whether sexual minority young adults also benefited from the dependent coverage mandate, despite previous studies showing lower health insurance coverage among sexual minorities and the fact that their higher likelihood of strained relationships with their parents might predict a lower ability to use parental coverage. Our estimates from the American Community Surveys using difference-in-differences and event study models show that men in same-sex couples age 21-25 were significantly more likely to have any health insurance after 2010 compared to the associated change for slightly older 27 to 31-year-old men in same-sex couples. This increase is concentrated among employer-sponsored insurance, and it is robust to permutations of time periods and age groups. Effects for women in same-sex couples and men in different-sex couples are smaller than the associated effects for men in same-sex couples. These findings confirm the broad effects of expanded dependent coverage and suggest that eliminating the federal dependent mandate could reduce health insurance coverage among young adult sexual minorities in same-sex couples.

May 13, 2020, 12:00 ET
Charlie Whittington (she/her) (Human Rights Campaign Foundation) will present “The Moderating Role of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Relationship Between Income and Complications During COVID-19 Infection” (with Dan Stewart he/him)

Abstract: With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in December 2019, policymakers and public health scholars continue to give attention to the heightened risk older adults face. COVID-19, a zoonotic respiratory virus, becomes most complicated among those who have compromised immune systems and engage in other risky behaviors such as smoking. Specifically, the risk faced by sexual and gender minorities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic continues to garner significant attention from the media, among advocacy organizations focused on issues affecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, and now, the present research. The present research asks whether or not sexual orientation and gender identity moderate the effects that categorical income situations have on older adults' risk of complications in the event of a COVID-19 infection. That is, does the relationship between categorical income and complications during infection vary based on older adults sexual orientation and gender identity. Data will come from five years (2014-2018) of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). A fixed-effects model using both state of residency and year of survey will be employed. Results will demonstrate the extent of disparities and similarities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ older adults in their risk of complications in the case of COVID-19 infection. 

May 20th, 12:00 ET
Ian Chadd (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) will present “Queer Preferences for Competition” (with Billur Aksoy)

Abstract: In this project, we seek to understand whether homosexual men and women have meaningfully different preferences for competition than their heterosexual counterparts. Such differences, if they exist, could help explain the employment gaps we observe across men and women with different sexual orientations. We conduct a series of economics experiments on the online labor market platform Prolific, collecting data not only on sexual orientation and competitiveness, but also on important social variables to better capture the lived experience of homosexual persons in US society. Such data could illuminate any channels through which a potential “sexual orientation gap” in competitiveness is observed and is important for understanding how identity shapes economic preferences.

May 27, 2020, 12:00 ET
Travis Campbell (University of Massachusetts - Amherst) will present “Beyond the Gender Binary: Transgender Labor Force Status in the United States 2014-2017” (with Lee Badgett and Everest Brennan)

Abstract: Following the recent acknowledgment of and debates around transgender people in the United States, there has emerged a small but growing literature on the economic implications of being transgender. However, this literature has either failed to account for major components of gender by only including gender identity or has been belied by sampling bias, both of which may entail drastic mischaracterizations of transgender labor market outcomes. This paper builds from social identity theory to provide a formal model of gender - the interplay between gender identity, expression and perception. We apply this model using the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Systems 2014-2017 and find evidence of labor market penalties associated with feminine identities, expressions and perceptions.

June 3rd, 12:00 ET
Emily Nix (University of Southern California) will present “What Causes the Child Penalty and How Can it be Reduced? Evidence from Same-Sex Couples and Policy Reforms” (with Martin Eckhoff Andresen)

Abstract: New parenthood causes large decreases in labor market incomes for mothers but not fathers, a stylized fact known as the “child penalty.” We use a simple household model combined with a comparison of child penalties in heterosexual and same-sex couples to better understand what causes the child penalty. We also provide causal estimates of two policies aimed at reducing the child penalty. We find small and insignificant impacts of paternity leave use on the child penalty, but find a 25% reduction in the child penalty from a large Norwegian reform that expanded access to child care.

June 10th, 12:00 ET
Matthew Shannon (University College, Dublin) will present “The Labour Market Outcomes of Transgender Individuals”

Abstract: I study the relationship between earnings and transgender status using the 2015 United States Transgender Survey of 27,715 transgender respondents. First, I compare the earnings of each transgender group against a sub-population of undisclosed crossdressers who are used as a novel proxy for cisgender men, and find that all transgender groups earn significantly less than cisgender men. Second, I estimate earnings differentials between different transgender groups, and find that transgender people who were assigned female at birth earn significantly less than those assigned male at birth. However, these results are sensitive to the degree to which respondents have socially transitioned. The earlier transgender people transition and the greater their ability to ‘pass’, the more their earnings profiles reflect that of their gender identity rather than their assigned birth- sex. This finding provides evidence in support of a traditional cisgender pay gap, with ‘maleness’ enjoying an earnings premium in the workplace over ‘femaleness’.

June 17, 12:00 ET
Connor Redpath (University of California, San Diego) will present “Access to Marriage Affects Couples’ Assortativeness: Evidence from Same-Sex Marriage Legalization”

Abstract: Using variation in access to (same-sex) marriage and Diff-in-Diff framework, I show legal marriage affects couple formation. Access to marriage induces matches with smaller years-of-education gaps and increased state-year-level correlations of years-of-education between partners, which is consistent with economic theory of legal marriage and cohabitation. Results suggest increased matching on race and, for women, age; however, the data are underpowered, unable to reject no effect.

June 24th, 12:00 ET
Michael Martell (Bard College) will present "Tolerance and the Labor Supply of Gays and Lesbians"

Abstract: The direct effects of tolerance for sexual minorities are presumed to matter but are under-studied. Tolerance can affect the disutility of work and household bargaining; therefore, we study how the labor supply of gay and lesbian workers responds to changes in tolerance of homosexuality across the United States. A one percentage point increase in tolerance motivates a one and half hour increase of annual paid labor among gay men and a one hour decrease of annual paid labor among lesbian women. The effect of tolerance is two and half times larger among lesbians who earn less than their partners.

July 1, 12:00 ET:
Joanne Hadaad (University of Ottawa) will present “Institutions, Attitudes and LGBT: Evidence from the Gold Rush” (with Abel Brodeur)

Abstract: This paper analyzes the determinants behind the spatial distribution of the LGBT population in the U.S. We relate the size of the present-day LGBT population to the discovery of gold mines during the 19th century gold rushes. Comparing the surroundings of these gold mines to other current and former mining counties, we find that there are currently 10-15% more same-sex couples in counties in which gold discoveries were made during the gold rushes. We also provide empirical evidence that residents of gold rush counties still have more favorable attitudes toward homosexuality nowadays. Our findings are consistent with two mechanisms. First, gold rushes led to a large (temporary) increase in the male-to-female ratio. Second, we show that gold rush counties were less likely to house a notable place of worship at the time of the discovery (and in the following decades) and are currently less religious, suggesting a role of institutions in shaping attitudes and norms.