Opinion: The Dramatic Effect of LGBT+ Equality on Economic Prosperity

Illustration by: Melissa Currie

In recent years, we have witnessed progress in the fight for LGBT+ rights and equality. Laws have been changed, public attitudes have shifted, and more individuals are openly embracing their true identities. However, despite these advancements, discrimination against LGBT+ people persists in various parts of the world, inflicting both human suffering and severe economic consequences. It is necessary for us, as a society and politicians, to recognize the economic impact of LGBT+ discrimination and take decisive steps towards inclusivity. As Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has demonstrated, discriminatory policies can cost a country up to 1% of its gross domestic product. This finding should a serve call for politicians to reevaluate their stance on LGBT+ issues and acknowledge the impact their policies have on the nation’s economic health.

Discrimination has deep-rooted consequences that affect every level of an individual’s life, starting with education. When LGBT+ students face prejudice, intolerance, and violence at schools, their ability to learn is disrupted, leading to higher drop-out rates and lower academic achievements. A 2018 UNESCO report found that some Asian countries, like Thailand and the Philippines, witness high drop-out rates among LGBT+ students, particularly transgender learners. This early discrimination stifles their potential and weakens human capital, the bedrock of a thriving economy.

In the workforce, discrimination results in occupational segregation, limited opportunities for promotions, and increased chances of job loss. In the United States, many LGBT+ workers have left their jobs due to workplace discrimination. A 2021 survey by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reported that 8.9% of LGBT+ workers faced job denials or layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic due to their sexuality. Such discrimination robs the economy of talent, creativity, and productivity, impending the overall growth.

Moreover, discriminatory policies can create a climate of fear and concealment, forcing LGBT+ individuals to hide their identities or orientations. In India, concerns about LGBT+ rights and the delay in passing same-sex marriage laws have led to a phenomenon known as the “gay brain drain,” where queer people are compelled to leave the country. This exodus deprives nations of their brightest minds, depriving the economy of their potential contributions.

SMART. QUEER SMART.

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