STUDY: The “B” In LGBT Apparently Stands For “Broke”

gay-piggy-bankBursting the bubble of alleged gay affluence, a new study from The Williams Institute claims that lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans remained more likely to be poor than heterosexual people, especially among women and African-Americans.

Of course that bubble’s been bursting for a while considering a 2009 report from the Williams Institute found that LGBTs are at a higher risk for poverty and a recent Gallup poll found that LGBTs are less educated and have less money than the straight population.

The newer Williams study, New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community, relied on data from four surveys: the 2010 American Community Survey (for same-sex couples), the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (for LGB people aged 18-44), the 2007-2009 California Health Interview Survey (for LGB people 18 and older living in California), and the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll (for single LGBT-identified adults).

The report had limited data on bisexual people and almost none on transgender people, highlighting, the researchers say, “the need for questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to be included on state and federal government surveys.”

Key findings include:

  • In the American Community Survey, 7.6% of lesbian couples, compared to 5.7% of married different-sex couples, are in poverty.
  • African American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans.
  • One third of lesbian couples and 20.1 % of gay male couples without a high school diploma are in poverty, compared to 18.8% of different-sex married couples.
  • Lesbian couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor (14.1%), compared to 4.5% of coupled lesbians in large cities. 10.2% of men in same-sex couples who live in small metropolitan areas are poor, compared with only 3.3% of coupled gay men in large metropolitan areas.
  • Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2% of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1% of children living with married different-sex couples. African American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3%) of any children in any household type.
  • 14.1% of lesbian couples and 7.7% of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5% of different-sex married couples. Also, 2.2% of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance, compared to .8% of women in different sex couples; 1.2% of men in same-sex couples, compared to .6% of men in different-sex couples, receive cash assistance.

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean being gay makes you more likely to be poor does it? Oh, what’s that lead author M.V. Lee Badgett? “Our analysis finds that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual increases a person’s likelihood of being poor.”

Say what now?

“I think people are surprised there are any poor gay people,” Badgett told CNBC. “This ‘myth of gay affluence’ has been around for a long time. It gets in the way of people even imagining that LGBT people can be poor.”

We imagine it just fine having recently checked our bank account balances, but still it’s hard to imagine that being LGB or T can actually lead to poverty. That’s like admitting that LGBT people are still in some way a disenfranchised community, and that America has some sort of inequity towards minorities or something. And that can’t be, right?

You can read the full report here.


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