Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Jeffrey Zax

Second Advisor

Martin Boileau

Third Advisor

Glenda Walden

Abstract

The gay rights movement and parallel fight to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has precipitated a number of policy debates in the past 40 years and various legislative responses across states. By 2010, a majority of states had adopted some form of legislation outlawing prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation in either private or public employment. A primary objective driving this movement is to reduce the negative effects caused by discrimination against this targeted minority of people by providing them with comprehensive legal protection and recourse. This paper uses data from the 2010 American Community Survey to estimate the consequences of adopting statewide employment nondiscrimination policies on wages for all people and specifically amongst the protected class. After controlling for individual characteristics that affect wages, the results show no indication that employment nondiscrimination policies convey a unique benefit for gays and lesbians. The important symbolic meaning of legitimizing the identities of gays and lesbians as fully contributing members of society by adopting these antidiscrimination protections might serve as a more compelling equality measure than evaluating the isolated income effects alone.

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