Experts have long explored what has come to be known as the “lesbian wage premium” – the fact that on average, lesbians around the world earn about 9% more than heterosexual women. The number is even higher in the United States, with lesbians earning about 20% more than straight women.
In a recent video, TikToker Aria Velz analyzed several studies to explain why this might be. “We can start at the obvious,” she said, “lesbians tend to be more educated than straight women, are less likely to have children, live more predominantly in cities, and have more professional jobs.”
But she explained that even when controlling for all of that, lesbians still earn more. So she brought up another hypothesis: Women in heterosexual relationships are still expected to take on more emotional and domestic labor than men, whereas lesbians tend to more equally share those duties. As such, heterosexual women are more likely to sacrifice career advancement for domestic responsibilities.
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Velz also pointed to studies that show lesbians who have lived with a previous male spouse make less money than lesbians who have never lived with a man.
“The lesson here is not that lesbians are better at making money,” she said. “It reconfirms that the domestic labor situation at home contributes to how women earn more outside the home – and lesbians have just learned that lesson first.”
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Despite the extra earnings for lesbians, Slate pointed out in 2015 (when the lesbian wage premium was first identified), that lesbians were still a lot are likely to be poor than straight women as well as the general population. And because women in general still make less than men, two women in a couple still tend to miss out on key earnings.
As Slate put it, “Any benefits to being lesbian are canceled out when couples’ earnings are considered in aggregate—there, lesbians fare the worst of anyone.”