The Relationship Between LGBT Inclusion and Economic Development: Emerging Economies

  • Citation: Badgett, M.V. Lee, Sheila Nezhad, Kees Waaldijk, and Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, “The Relationship between LGBT Inclusion and Economic Development: An Analysis of Emerging Economies,” The Williams Institute, October 2014.
    • Topics:
    • Movements for Inclusion
    • Keywords:
    • LGBTQ+
    • inclusion
    • economic development
    • human rights
    • micro- and macro-level analysis

This study analyzes the impact of social inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people on economic development in 39 countries. When LGBT people are denied full participation in society because of their identities, their human rights are violated, and those violations of human rights are likely to have a harmful effect on a country’s level of economic development. Several theoretical frameworks argue that the inclusion of LGBT people is linked to a stronger economy. In the human capital approach, inclusion allows LGBT people to achieve their economic potential when they can get education and training that improves their productivity and when they are treated equally in the labor market. The capabilities approach suggests that greater rights and freedoms improve individual well-being by expanding individuals’ capabilities to be and do what they value. The post-materialist demand for human rights theory suggests that greater economic development might make countries more likely to respect the rights of LGBT people, as LGBT people can freely organize and push for legal changes and as public opinion shifts to support greater individual autonomy and minority rights. And the strategic modernization approach posits that countries hoping to present themselves as more visibly “modern” and successful to potential trading partners might be using LGBT rights strategically as a way to promote and expand economic opportunities. Up to this point, little empirical research has tested this theoretical connection, particularly for the emerging economies that are the focus of this paper. This study analyzes 39 countries, 29 of which are “emerging economies” (those countries that are experiencing high levels of economic growth and investment) and 10 of which are countries of interest (those that have active and engaged LGBT social movements and are of particular significance to global development institutions). Given both the potential for rapid change in rights and income-level for low and middle-income economies, this study provides a new perspective to identify the relationship between LGBT rights and economic development.

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