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Sexual orientation and sex differences in socioeconomic status: a population-based investigation in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health
  1. Kerith J Conron1,2,3,
  2. Shoshana K Goldberg3,
  3. Carolyn T Halpern3
  1. 1 The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2 The Fenway Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3 Department of Maternal and Child Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kerith J Conron, The Williams Institute, UCLA School of LawLos Angeles, CA 90095, USA; conron{at}


Background Socioeconomic status (SES) is a fundamental contributor to health; however, limited research has examined sexual orientation differences in SES.

Methods 2008–2009 data from 14 051 participants (ages 24–32 years) in the US-based, representative, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health were analysed using multivariable regressions that adjusted for age, race-ethnicity, childhood SES, urbanicity and Census region, separately for females and males. Modification by racial minority status (black or Latino vs white, non-Hispanic) was also explored.

Results Among females, sexual minorities (SM) (10.5% of females) were less likely to graduate college, and were more likely to be unemployed, poor/near poor, to receive public assistance and to report economic hardship and lower social status than heterosexuals. Adjusting for education attenuated many of these differences. Among males, SM (4.2% of males) were more likely than heterosexuals to be college graduates; however, they also had lower personal incomes. Lower rates of homeownership were observed among SM, particularly racial minority SM females. For males, household poverty patterns differed by race-ethnicity: among racial minority males, SM were more likely than heterosexuals to be living at >400% federal poverty level), whereas the pattern was reversed among whites.

Conclusions Sexual minorities, especially females, are of lower SES than their heterosexual counterparts. SES should be considered a potential mediator of SM stigma on health. Studies of public policies that may produce, as well as mitigate, observed SES inequities, are warranted.

  • social inequalities
  • health inequalities
  • social science

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conceptualization and writing of the paper. Dr. Conron led the writing and provided overall guidance for the analysis in concert with Dr. Halpern. Dr. Goldberg conducted the analysis.

  • Funding This study was funded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (10.13039/100009633) and grant number: 3P01HD031921-18S1, 5 R24HD050924, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.