M.V. Lee Badgett Named Spotlight Scholar for Her Work Fighting for LGBT Rights, Measuring the Cost of Discrimination

When economist M.V. Lee Badgett published her 1995 study on the wage gap faced by gay men and lesbians, there was nothing like it in the field. In fact, conventional wisdom held just the opposite.

"My first summer after grad school, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how wealthy the gay market was,” says Badgett, professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Economics and former director of the university’s School of Public Policy. “That didn’t mesh with the experience I’d seen.” Badgett’s research led her to data that confirmed her hypothesis: on average, gay and bisexual men earned between 11 and 27 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts. In other words, discrimination, not privilege, was the norm.

Badgett’s research was the first to look at LGBT realities through an economic lens. As an economist, she understood that money and power were intertwined. “I thought this was a really useful perspective to study issues of social justice,” she says. “It provided the tools to see what problems exist and the tools to make those problems better.”  READ MORE