Study Examines How Sexual Orientation Impacts Academic Success

Women’s academic achievements in enrollments and degree attainments have been well-publicized, but a new study by Joel Mittleman, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, finds that this success may be limited to straight women.

The study found that gay men outperform their straight peers, both men and women. But lesbian women do not perform as well academically as heterosexual women.

Dr. Mittleman found that gay men’s academic success doesn’t just subtly outshine straight men’s. Roughly 52 percent of gay men in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree, while the overall national number for all adults in the U.S. is 36 percent. Six percent of gay men in the U.S. have an advanced degree, which is about 50 percent higher than that of straight men. This holds true for gay men in the four largest racial/ethnic groups (White, Black, Hispanic and Asian).

“If America’s gay men were considered on their own, they would have, by far, the highest college completion rate in the world: easily surpassing the current leader, Luxembourg, at 46.6 percent,” Dr. Mittleman wrote.

The study found that although lesbian women historically outpaced straight women, in contemporary cohorts, lesbian and bisexual women face significant academic disadvantages. The data shows that gay women have lower grade point averages than straight women and that, compared to straight girls, lesbians are twice as likely to report ever dropping out of high school. These stark disadvantages, Dr. Mittleman suggests, could reflect discriminatory treatment from teachers.

The full study, “Intersecting the Academic Gender Gap: The Education of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual America,” may be accessed here.

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