How Realistic Is That "Rich Gay" Stereotype?

“It’s pretty easy to get the impression that being gay is a ticket to affluence. But today, on Freakonomics Radio, we ask this: how real is that rich gay stereotype?” That's the question that Stephen Dubner, the Freakonomics host asks at the beginning of this episode.

He takes a look at the U.S. census data next, because it’s good to get a general idea of what people earn. Data shows the average household income for hetero couples is about $86,000. For gay male couples the average income is $105,600, or nearly 20 percent more. So, okay, gay men do seem to make more. And on top of that, says Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, gay men typically have a higher education, so because of that they’re going to make more money.

Are you seeing where this is going? Dubner is. “Gay men get more education, that would go a long way toward explaining why they earn more," he says. "Plus, men generally earn more than women, so having two working men in a household should also lead to higher incomes.”

Okay, so what about the spending element? Why do gay men seem so rich? He says this is because of one acronym: D.I.N.K., which stands for “Dual Income, No Kids.” If you don’t have kids, you have a lot more money to spend! For instance, Dubner says that gay couples without kids spend 50 percent more money on their pets. They can also live in more affluent cities for this reason.


BUT WAIT. Freakonomics is messing with us. All of that data, all of that economic information... well, guess what? It’s wrong. The problem here is that data about LGBT people is almost impossible to rely on because it is U.S. Census data and a lot of people don’t necessarily want to disclose their sexual orientation.

Plus, they have other studies showing gay men earn less than straight men. A lot of that has to do with discrimination. Dubner goes into detail in the rest of the podcast explaining how discrimination has a trickle-down effect. What’s interesting though, he says, is this new information isn’t necessarily going to change people's minds.

This idea that gay men make more money—even though they don’t—is a powerful stereotype that’s hard to erase. But now you know.