Gay male couples have the highest incomes

© CBS / Nikki van Toorn
Of all registered cohabiting couples (including those who are married), same-sex male couples have the highest combined income from work or business, the so-called primary income. Their average gross annual income is 15 thousand euros higher compared to opposite-sex couples. The incomes of lesbian and straight couples are more or less the same. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on a new analysis.


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Male couples living under the same roof have an average income of nearly 108 thousand euros per year. Male-female couples earn over 92 thousand euros and female couples 91 thousand euros. The survey only includes couples in which the oldest partner has not yet reached the state pension age. Couples in the survey got married or entered into a registered partnership after 2001, the year in which gay marriage was legalised in the Netherlands.

Sum of primary incomes of both partners, 20171)2)
 Income (x 1,000 euros)
Male-female couples92
Male couples108
Female couples91
1) Except in cases where the sum of the primary incomes equals zero. 2) Age of oldest partner up to state pension age.

Among both straight and gay couples, households often have an unequal distribution of income, meaning that one partner earns significantly more than the other (or at least two-thirds of the sum of both primary incomes). Income inequality is seen in 59 percent of male-female couples, 50 percent of male couples and 44 percent of female couples. Among heterosexual couples with an uneven income distribution, the highest-earning partner is male in 86 percent of the cases.

Difference in primary income between partners1)2), 2017
   Significantly lower (%)Equal (%)Significantly higher (%)
Heterosexual coupleMale partner84151
Heterosexual coupleFemale partner51418
Homosexual coupleMale partner255025
Homosexual coupleFemale partner225622
1) Except in cases where the sum of the primary incomes equals zero. 2) Both partners are below the state pension age.

Number of hours likely to differ between partners

Income inequality among couples reflects a situation in which one of the partners often works more hours than the other. Male employees who work more than their partner work 1,700 hours on average, versus 1,600 hours among female employees. In the case of partners with the lowest number of hours (including those not in work), working hours are more divergent: homosexual men work an average 1,200 hours, heterosexual men and lesbian women 1,100 hours and heterosexual women 900 hours.

On average, men with a male partner have a lower income from work or business than men with a female partner. The reverse is true for women: lesbians earn more than heterosexual women on average.

Men earn more

On average, men earn more than women. This applies to both heterosexuals and homosexuals, although the gap among the latter group is narrower. On average, heterosexual men earn 28 thousand euros more per year than heterosexual women, while the difference between gay men and lesbian women is 9 thousand euros.

The comparison between homosexual and heterosexual persons is different among men than among women. On average, heterosexual men earn 5 thousand euros more per year than their homosexual counterparts, while heterosexual women earn 14 thousand euros less on average than lesbians.

Average primary annual income of persons with a partner, 20171)2)
GeslachtKoppelIncome (x 1,000 euros)
1) Sexual orientation based on partner registration. 2) Both partners below state pension age.

Education level higher among gay men and women

Income differences have not been adjusted for differences in education, age, origin or number of hours worked. However, the survey does show discrepancies between the groups of heterosexual and homosexual persons. For example, the homosexual men and women participating in the survey are older and higher educated on average. After adjustment for age, education and origin, the average income differences between heterosexual and homosexual men are larger (10 thousand euros) while they are smaller among women (9 thousand euros).

After adjustment for education, age, origin and hours worked, homosexual men still have a lower average salary than their heterosexual counterparts (3 thousand euros). However, lesbian women do not earn more but less (one thousand euros) than heterosexual women.

Homosexuals and heterosexuals not registered as partners

To what extent are the results found for registered partners generally applicable? To determine this, we would need to know the sexual orientation of all men and women. Statistics Netherlands has neither a registration nor any targeted research on this, but there is a survey which provides some insight. The so-called Safety Monitor contains a survey question regarding the respondent’s sexual orientation. For various reasons, this question is not suitable as a source for publication. However, the data can be used to verify the results from the partner survey. It then turns out that linking the findings of the Safety Monitor with income data confirms the results. This means that heterosexual men generally earn more than homosexual men while heterosexual women earn less than lesbian women.