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Study: Gays Have Harder Time on the Job Market

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Oct 6, 2011

Previous studies have shown that, contrary to popular myth, gays and their families are more likely than heterosexual to live beneath the poverty line. Making matters worse, a new study suggests, is a trend among employers to pass over self-identified gay job applicants.

The study, titled "Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination Against Openly Gay Men in the United States" appeared Sept. 4 in The American Journal of Sociology, reported the following day.

The study "found that employers in the South and Midwest were less likely to offer interviews to candidates whose resumes revealed they were gay," the article reported. Gays were about 40 percent less likely to be interviewed for a position even if they were well qualified, the study found.

The study, conducted by Harvard researcher and Ph.D. candidateás Tilcsik, "outed" fictitious job applicants by listing relevant work experience with GLBT organizations on carefully constructed resumes.

The researcher "composed two counterfeit resumes and sent them to the same 1,700 job openings," a Huffington Post article explained. "One resume listed experience as a treasurer in a gay college campus organization while the other merely referred to being involved in a 'progressive and socialist alliance.' "

"I chose an experience in a gay community organization that could not be easily dismissed as irrelevant to a job application," Tilcsik noted. "Thus, instead of being just a member of a gay or lesbian campus organization, the applicant served as the elected treasurer for several semesters, managing the organization's financial operations."

The "non-gay" resume elicited an invitation for an interview at a rate of 11.5 percent of the time. But the "gay" resume only elicited similar invitations 7.2 percent of the time--a difference of 40 percent. The research also found an apparent correlation between job advertisements looking for "aggressive" and "assertive" candidates and the lower rate of response toward gay applicants from employers, suggesting that employers may buy into the stereotype of gays as being weak or "effeminate."

Tilcsik theorized that "the discrimination documented in this study is partly rooted in specific stereotypes and cannot be completely reduced to a general antipathy against gay employees."

The results were not the same in all geographical areas, the Huffington Post noted.

"The largest gap was found in Southern and Midwestern states--Texas, Florida, and Ohio--while Western and Northeastern states--California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York--showed little difference in terms of which candidate was contacted," noted the Huffington Post article.

Tilcsik was reluctant to say that overall attitudes were substantially different in the states where his "gay" resumes drew greater interest from employers.

"This doesn't necessarily mean that there is no discrimination in those states, just that the callback gaps were small in the case of the jobs to which I sent applications," the researcher opined. "I think it's very plausible that, even in those states, there might be a large callback gap in some other jobs, industries, or counties.

"What this does show is that discrimination in white-collar employment is substantially stronger for the Southern and Midwestern states in the sample," Tilcsik added.

"András Tilcsik is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard University," text at the researcher's Harvard webpage reads. "His research examines how organizational and institutional environments affect individuals' performance and opportunities within organizations."

A 2009 study from The Williams Institute, "Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community," found that contrary to wide public perception, gays and their families are not more likely to be wealthy than heterosexuals are.

"Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are as likely to be poor as are heterosexuals, while gay and lesbian couple households, after adjusting for the factors that help explain poverty, are more likely to be poor than married heterosexual couple households," the study said.

The perception that gays are wealthier than straights arose partly from how gay purchasing power was spun, according to a March 27, 2009, article at Gay People's

"The perception of gay affluence was largely created in the 1990s by marketing companies seeking to cultivate gay commerce opportunities," the article said. "With no census data available, the marketing researchers studied groups likely to be well off, like Human Rights Campaign membership lists, magazine subscribers and people who used gay travel agencies."

The Williams Institute study, titled "Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community," drew on more resources than previous studies that reached similar conclusions about GLBT wealth, including Census data.

The article went on to note, "Anti-gay groups, however, have used the same information to say that LGBT people are not discriminated against and do not need to be protected."

"The myth of gay and lesbian affluence is just that--a myth," the Williams Institute study declared.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2011-10-07 17:03:48

    Ok... Hold on... So out of 100 people, 11.5% of strait people were given job interviews and 7.2% of homosexuals were given job interviews. Therefore, roughly, out of 100 people, 11 strait people were interviewed and 7 homosexuals were interviewed. Ok. The article also stated that the individual conducting the experiement "...composed two counterfeit resumes and sent them to the same 1,700 job openings.." The difference between these two resumes were that "..One resume listed experience as a treasurer in a gay college campus organization while the other merely referred to being involved in a ’progressive and socialist alliance..." Interesting.. So, may I ask, considering these resumes were sent to identical employers, were there any other differences that could be accounted for; Such as the individuals name (thereby most likely deducing race) the individual’s age, and other minor modifications on work history to avoid plagiarising the previously submitted resume (most employers require a work history spanning years.) I’m calling bullshit.

  • , 2011-10-12 17:36:57

    re: Anonymous, 2011-10-07 17:03:48 if you look at the study itself (linked in the article), you’ll see that the study actually took care of all the things that you mention through randomization and a pretty clever design...

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