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Without Census Recognition, LGBT Pay Gap, Inequalities Go Unnoticed

Men in same-sex marriages make almost 20 percent less than men in opposite-sex marriages in Seattle. (rich_villanueva_photography/Twenty20)
Men in same-sex marriages make almost 20 percent less than men in opposite-sex marriages in Seattle. (rich_villanueva_photography/Twenty20)
June 11, 2018

SEATTLE — The U.S. Census provides important information on communities, but it won't be counting the number of LGBTQ people in 2020 - and that's a problem, according to a new report.

The Census Bureau will count same-sex marriages, as it has in the past. But the Bureau rescinded a question that would have asked people about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Matthew Caruchet, author of the Economic Opportunity Institute report, said the question could have provided important information on an area with little research: the LGBT pay gap. He compared this issue to the women's pay gap, which can draw on decades of census data.

"When we don't have an accurate count of LGBT people or what their situation is, we can't address the problems that face that community,” Caruchet said. “And it's easy to say that problems don't exist, because there's no data."

Caruchet noted that data on the number of homeless transgender youth, for instance, could help direct the allocation of resources such as housing. He added that information gleaned only from the number of same-sex marriages is misleading, as it won't include unmarried couples and people who are bisexual.

Data in the report from Seattle in 2016 provides a snapshot of the LGBT pay gap. Men in same-sex marriages made a median salary of about $78,000, while men in opposite-sex marriages made about $96,000. Women in same-sex marriages made slightly more than those in opposite-sex marriages, about $71,000 compared to $70,000.

Caruchet said the gap in some cases is a result of the professions people choose - and said stereotyping plays a big role in this discrepancy.

"When girls are told at a young age that they're not good at math and science, that has a profound effect on them throughout their lives,” he said. “And I think it's also true that the messages that we send young LGBT people carry through the rest of their lives as well, and that is reflected in this data."

Despite this gap, the research found gay and lesbian households earn more than straight households. Caruchet said this most likely is because gay and lesbian couples work more. In Seattle, 57 percent of opposite-sex married couples have both spouses working. Both people work in 71 percent of male same-sex couples; and for women, it's 74 percent.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA