M.V. Lee Badgett, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration and professor of economics, has been awarded a Samuel F. Conti Faculty Fellowship, a prestigious honor from the University of Massachusetts Amherst that recognizes outstanding scholarly work.
Conti fellows receive a cash prize and a one-year leave of absence to further their research and creative activity. Badgett will spend next year exploring the economic impact that social and legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has on developing countries around the world, as well as on employers in the United States.
“Questions about the economic impact of inclusion of LGBT people often emerge in policy debates,” said Badgett. “People ask, for example, whether discrimination against LGBT people is costly. Or if legal equality for LGBT people will have positive economic effects. Some economists are skeptical about the coexistence of equity and economic efficiency, but we know now that discrimination can make people less healthy and less productive than they can be. Given that context, I’ll be studying how equality for LGBT people in developing countries might be linked to higher economic growth rates.”
Badgett is already a leading global authority on the economics of same-sex marriage. In addition to her positions at UMass, Badgett serves as research director of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA. Her first book, Money, Myths and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men, countered widely held stereotypes about the economic reality for gay Americans, such as the assumption that lesbians and gay men are more affluent than heterosexuals. In her next book, When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, Badgett explored how the 2001 legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands has affected public and private spheres in that country.
She was an expert witness during California’s Proposition 8 trial, which examined the constitutionality of that state’s 2008 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. More recently, Badgett has traveled to Australia and Vietnam to speak with government officials considering expanding rights for same-sex couples. This fellowship will help Badgett develop this latest phase of her research, to examine more in-depth the economic effects that expanded gay rights has on American employers and on developing countries.
The Conti Fellowships honor faculty with outstanding scholarly accomplishments who show significant potential for future distinguished achievements in their research and creative endeavors. In addition to Badgett, Professors Jeffrey D. Blaustein (psychology) and Fred Feldman (philosophy) also received Conti Fellowships this year.