Concealable Stigma and Occupational Segregation: Toward a Theory of Gay and Lesbian Occupations


Tilcsik, András, Michel Anteby, and Carly Knight. 2015. “Concealable Stigma and Occupational Segregation: Toward a Theory of Gay and Lesbian Occupations.” Administrative Science Quarterly 60 (3): 446-481. Copy at
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Numerous scholars have noted the disproportionately high number of gay and lesbian workers in certain occupations, but systematic explanations for this type of occupational segregation remain elusive. Drawing on the literatures on concealable stigma and stigma management, we develop a theoretical framework predicting that gay men and lesbians will concentrate in occupations that provide a high degree of task independence or require a high level of social perceptiveness, or both. Using several distinct measures of sexual orientation, and controlling for potential confounds, we find support for these predictions across two nationally representative surveys in the United States. Consistent with prior research, lesbian and gay workers are more likely than heterosexual workers to cross gender lines in occupations, but even after controlling for this tendency, we show that common to both lesbians and gay men is a propensity to concentrate in those lines of work that are associated with relatively high levels of task independence or social perceptiveness, or both. This study points to a more comprehensive theory of occupational segregation on the basis of minority sexual orientation and holds implications for the literatures on stigma, occupations, and labor markets.

Last updated on 09/19/2015