The subject of homosexuality and homophobia is often debated in terms of either morality or legality. Christopher Banks, however, approaches the issue differently. In a pair of reports—The Co$t of Homophobia: Literature Review on the Economic Impact of Homophobia On Canada and The Cost of Homophobia: Literature Review on the Human Impact of Homophobia On Canada—Banks studies homophobia in terms of both its toll on the Canadian economy and “premature” deaths. Through an examination of existing literature on homosexuality and homophobia, Banks calculates both the human and economic impacts related to homophobia in Canada.
Banks uses two estimates of homosexuality’s base rate (i.e. the percentage of Canadians who are homosexual) to make his calculations—five and ten percent. The five percent rate was derived from the median of a survey of 48 studies of homosexuality and serves as the lower rate. Ten percent is the more popularly held belief for homosexuality’s base rate, and also takes into account that some homosexuals might be unwilling to reveal their orientation when participating in surveys or studies. From there, Banks explores numerous categories related to premature death: suicide, smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, unemployment, physical violence/murder, and HIV/AIDS. Central to his premise is that homophobia —negative attitudes and/or actions against homosexuals— exacerbates these self-destructive behaviours. Within each of these categories, he examines specific studies that compile statistical evidence related to homosexuals and that particular issue, and determines a rate of affliction. This rate is then applied to the two base rates to ascertain high and low raw figures. The two base rates are also applied against national averages (i.e. no distinction between homosexuals and heterosexuals). The result is four separate estimates for each category.
In The Co$t of Homophobia, Banks estimates a cost of between $1.9 billion-$8 billion per year to the Canadian economy (as manifested in areas such as health costs or lower job productivity) due to homosexual suicide, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and depression. In The Cost of Homophobia, Banks estimates between 2300-5500 premature deaths annually from homosexual suicide, smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse. Apart from the considerable survey of literature and impressive calculations, both reports also contain an invaluable reference list of studies related to homosexuality and homophobia.
These studies, Banks emphasizes, are not meant to be definitive, and he is forthcoming about their limitations and suggests means of improving the methodology. The estimates, however, are intended to be illustrative of the problem and effect of homophobia on both Canadian society and the economy. These two studies creatively and effectively convey both human loss and the economic costs that affect all Canadians because of homophobia.