The LGBTQ+ Gap: Recent Estimates for Young Adults in the United States

45 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2022

See all articles by Marc Folch

Marc Folch

University of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: April 1, 2022


This article provides recent estimates of earnings and mental health for sexual and gender minority young adults in the United States. Using data from a nationally representative sample of bachelor’s degree recipients, I find a significant earnings and mental health gap between self-identified LGBTQ+ and comparable heterosexual cisgender graduates. On average, sexual and gender minorities experience 22% lower earnings ten years after graduation. About half of this gap can be attributed to LGBTQ+ graduates being less likely to complete a high-paying major and work in a high-paying occupation (e.g., STEM and business). In addition, LGBTQ+ graduates are more than twice more likely to report having a mental illness. I then analyze the role of sexual orientation concealment and find a more pronounced earnings and mental health gap for closeted graduates.

Keywords: LGBTQ+, Labor Market Discrimination, Mental Health

JEL Classification: I14, J15, J16, J31, J71

Suggested Citation

Folch, Marc, The LGBTQ+ Gap: Recent Estimates for Young Adults in the United States (April 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Marc Folch (Contact Author)

University of Chicago

Chicago, IL
United States

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA
United States

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