New study finds countries with more rights for LGB people enjoy higher GDP per capita

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Research on 45 years of legal and economic data for 132 countries by international team shows the addition of one right for LGB people is associated with over $2000 in GDP per capita

A new study published by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rutgers University and Leiden Law School has found that nations offering more rights to lesbian, gay and bisexual people enjoy significantly higher per capita GDP than those who trail in LGB equality, and that nations fostering exclusion of LGB people are causing harms to their economies. The study, "The Relationship between LGBT Inclusion and Economic Development: Macro-Level Evidence," appears online in the journal World Development.

The researchers used legal and for 132 countries from 1966-2011, including the eight-point Global Index on Legal Recognition of Homosexual Orientation (GILRHO), to assess how economic harms caused by limitations of LGB rights – such as lost labor time, lost productivity, underinvestment in and the inefficient allocation of human resources – are related to the macroeconomy. The GILRHO index, created by Dutch law professor and study co-author Kees Waaldijk, covers eight categories of legal recognition and protection for LGB people, such as decriminalization, anti-discrimination and partnership recognition, assigning each right with one point. The researchers found that the addition of just one additional point on the GILRHO scale is associated with an increase in real GDP per capita of just over $2000, and that estimates of the cost of exclusion suggest that 6-22 percent of this sum "could plausibly reflect the GDP costs of excluding LGB individuals from a full range of legal rights."

"All over the world LGBT people face discrimination in the labor market, harassment and bullying in education and stresses that harm their health. This treatment diminishes their ability to contribute to the economy, and the economy suffers when countries fail to recognize their rights," says lead author M.V. Lee Badgett, professor of economics and public policy at UMass Amherst and distinguished scholar at the UCLA Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy.

"Human rights already provide strong arguments for full LGBT equality, and over the last few decades they have contributed to increasing legal recognition in many countries," says Waaldijk, professor of comparative sexual orientation law at Leiden University. "The economic argument for equality, based on the economic effect of LGB inclusion as tested in this study, can widen and deepen the global legal trends captured in the GILRHO index."

The study's findings are higher than previous estimates; in 2014, the researchers released a study based on a limited sample of emerging economies that found a $320 increase in per capita GDP per GILRHO point.

"Many people, including policymakers, may turn a blind eye to the moral argument against discrimination against LGBT individuals. But if the economy is brought up, they are more likely to use money rather than morals to justify reforming policies to protect LGBT rights," says co-author Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, professor of women's and gender studies at Rutgers University. "Policymakers want to see the numbers, so here are the numbers that show the economic effect. Here's evidence they can use to support change."

The researchers conclude that the results from this study can help development agencies and other stakeholders to better understand "how the fuller enjoyment of human rights by LGBT people can contribute to a country's ."

The study notes that the empirical analysis uses legal rights of LGB people to represent LGBT inclusion. "Unfortunately we do not have multi-year data on the actual social position of LGBT people across the world, nor do we have a multi-year dataset on the legal rights of transgender people in many countries," the researchers clarify. "Accordingly, we remove the 'T' from LGBT to acknowledge our shift in focus to LGB rights."

Explore further

Supporting LGBT rights is good for the economy, study finds

More information: M.V. Lee Badgett et al. The relationship between LGBT inclusion and economic development: Macro-level evidence, World Development (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.03.011
Provided by Leiden University
Citation: New study finds countries with more rights for LGB people enjoy higher GDP per capita (2019, April 10) retrieved 22 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 10, 2019
Study finds that researchers have a hard time distinguishing cause from effect. Does it not make more sense that in richer countries people simply have less pressing survival needs and are therefore free to argue for LGBT rights?

Apr 10, 2019
We would need to have studies done following changes in laws that allow more rights for LGBT people to determine if the rights follow economic freedom or if the reverse is true. My guess is the money frees up the rights, but without studies, it is an unknown. In almost all cases, education is the real creator of change, increased GDP and rights flow from an educated populace.

Apr 10, 2019
I agree ET3D, as free countries have more prosperity than unfree ones, and freedom is the factor most correlated to prosperity. Nations that are free, are also more likely to have sexual freedom for LGBT people. It's not freedom for LGBT = more income, it's freedom = more income and free countries usually provide sexual freedom for LGBT folks.

Apr 10, 2019
I read once on a paper in the New York Times that government officials invited people from the gay community from Florida, to Austin Texas to make it more beautiful, and they indeed did so. I tried to find the paper to reference it here, but I did not find the original that I once read, but I found another one with similar theme: NYT 2002 titled "the cities and the new elite". That paper makes the same argument, that bringing gay people to an area make it more prosper. It includes gay people among the creative forces.

It has been an old observation in my life that in general gay men are way better at aesthetics than straight men. Fields like architecture, design, fashion, art are usually lead by homosexual men.

I am not homosexual, but I did not choose it. Since I was born I like women and even when I had periods where I found women annoying, I could not "become gay". Homophobia is a lot more stupid than racism. It requires a rusted blunt mind to hate gay people.

Apr 10, 2019
I don't "hate" gay people, I happen to think it is a perversion that needs to be treated by a team of psychologists. Most of these men were sexually abused as kids.

Apr 10, 2019
And of course the dumbshit forgets that women can be as gay as men.

Apr 10, 2019
And continuing an ongoing conversation, what are the statistics of this finding?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more