M. Ray Perryman
Texas Border Business
The US Supreme Court recently ruled that employers cannot discriminate against gay or transgender persons under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination in employment, housing, and access to public places such as restaurants, hotels, and shops leads not only a loss of dignity and opportunity for those on the receiving end of such treatment, but also involves significant economic costs stemming from both a diminished ability to attract knowledge workers and reduced opportunities for tourism, conventions, and related activity. As we emerge from the pandemic, these concerns will be magnified.
In particular, the LGBTQ community has been a focus of systemic discriminatory patterns. There have been high profile instances of bias in employment, housing, and access to public places. Moreover, this group has not specifically been identified in national non-discrimination legislation, and the Supreme Court’s decision is a major step toward correcting this gap.
We recently examined the potential economic and fiscal benefits of Texas passing a nondiscrimination in employment, housing, and public places access act, and found that they would likely be substantial. Empirical studies indicate that non-discrimination protections encourage the location of knowledge workers and young workers in an area, thus contributing to the attraction and retention of high-growth industries conducive to long-term economic growth. Similarly, surveys of travelers and convention professionals demonstrate that full access is increasingly necessary for an active tourism market. Social policies which are perceived to be discriminatory can have detrimental effects on travel and tourism by decreasing an area’s attractiveness to event planners and potential visitors. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues will escalate notably.
We estimate that passing a comprehensive nondiscrimination act in 2021 would lead to a total increase in business activity in the state by 2025 of an estimated $19.8 billion in annual gross product and 180,226 jobs, with benefits rising substantially over time. Regions with greater concentrations of knowledge workers and greater opportunities for tourism and convention activity tend to be most significantly affected, though all metropolitan areas and the rural segments of Texas would be expected to see increased employment. (The full study is available at www.perrymangroup.com.)
In addition, business activity generates tax revenue. We estimate that the annual fiscal benefits of passing a comprehensive nondiscrimination act in 2021 would be $1.2 billion to the State and nearly $0.9 billion to local government entities by 2025, rising substantially over time. Obviously, these funds would be highly advantageous given the shortfalls due to the current situation with the coronavirus.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision is an important aspect of reducing discrimination. Texas can benefit further with passage of a nondiscrimination act and creation of an environment welcoming to all workers and visitors. Be safe!!