Academic journal article Population

Sectors of Activity and Occupations of Gays and Lesbians in a Union: A Smaller Gender Divide

Academic journal article Population

Sectors of Activity and Occupations of Gays and Lesbians in a Union: A Smaller Gender Divide

Article excerpt

Since the 1980s, social science research on homosexuality has expanded rapidly in France, a trend that reflects the rising social visibility of homosexuality, the legal recognition of same-sex unions, and the resulting decrease in stigma. Using interview-based qualitative surveys, numerous studies on sexuality, conjugality, and parenthood have been conducted, partly in response to the politicization of homosexuality brought on by the creation of the civil partnership (PACS) in 1999, the debate surrounding the recognition of same-sex parenting and, more recently, the opening of marriage to gay and lesbian couples in 2013.

In the field of quantitative research, progress is mixed. Quantitative studies are mainly based on two types of sources: representative surveys on sexual behaviour, and specialized surveys on a sample of volunteers based on the model initiated in the 1980s by Michael Pollak and Marie-Ange Schiltz (1994) at the height of the AIDS epidemic. These surveys made it possible to study the diversity of homo-bisexualities, and more generally, to better understand sexual behaviours and how they evolve over time. It remains difficult, however, to characterize gay and lesbian populations socially, even on the basis of detailed social indicators such as educational qualifications, sector of activity, or occupational category. Two general population surveys - Analyse des comportements sexuels des Français (Analysis of sexual behaviours in France, 1992) and Contexte de la sexualité en France (Context of sexuality in France, 2006) - based on probabilistic samples, revealed that respondents who reported at least one sexual encounter with a person of the same sex in their lifetimes were both younger and more highly educated than the average. It should be noted, however, that this indicator - having had at least one same-sex partner in one's lifetime - is not an indicator of homosexual orientation (Bajos and Beltzer, 2012; Messiah and Mouret-Fourme, 1993). Surveys based on convenience samples (such as the Gai Pied surveys and the gay press surveys carried out annually from 1985 to 1993, then again in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2011 - with the latest edition also addressing women) have always revealed very specific respondent profiles (Pollak, 1988; Rault, 2011; Schiltz, 1998; Velter, 2007): high levels of education, upward social mobility and an over-representation in higher-level and intellectual occupations. The authors ascribe this to the choice of survey administration method (notably paper questionnaires that favour those who are comfortable with writing) and to the effect on the respondents' life course of having a stigmatized, minority sexual orientation. These observations were made cautiously, as the surveys depended on voluntary participation and did not include detailed indicators of the respondents' social situations. More recently, routine surveys administered by INSEE, such as the Labour Force survey (Enquete Emploi), have explored certain themes based on the study of individuals in same-sex unions, while taking important methodological precautions, as these configurations are difficult to identify (Laurent and Mihoubi, 2014; Toulemon, 2014; Table 1).

New and more precise data now allow us to study the social status of gays and lesbians. This article first examines the sources available on the subject, as of the mid-2010s. It shows that the current approach, which aims to characterize gay and lesbian people in terms of education and occupation, brings with it several challenges linked to the representativeness of such surveys, the quality of the indicators, and the low numbers of respondents.

After this general overview, using data from the Family and Housing survey (Enquete Famille et Logements, INSEE, 2011), a general population survey based on a probabilistic sample, we will propose an alternative approach which explores the hypothesis that social situations may differ by sexual orientation. Unprecedented in its level of detail and its sample size, this approach is based on the analysis of respondents who report being in a union at the time of the survey (whether cohabiting or not). …

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