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.


Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #gayeconomy #lgbtfinances #lgbtpoverty stories and more


  • skcord

    The fear of being poor is what drives me to make money. Use it as motivation like Charles Dickens.

  • Cam

    Because the gays that are easy to spot are folks doing well….see them at the gym, furniture shopping, on vacation.

    Some guy busting ass working minimum wage at an Arby’s doesn’t jump out to people as “Gay”.

  • jeff4justice

    @skcord: what a fucking brilliant insight. I suppose the half of the nation that is in poverty was just too dumb to figure that out. they must be caught up enjoying all that caviar with their welfare checks.

  • jeff4justice

    Gay Inc does not care about poor people.

    yet at the next Pride Festival look at the HRC booth and see how many people are lining up to donate to the six figure salary earning executive directors.

    I suppose there’s no incentive in expediently attaining equality more than turning a six figure salary.

  • viveutvivas

    @jeff4justice, yes, the insult is that this research is being touted as “surprising.”

    The people who are and who support the large gay rights organizations, are the affluent ones who live in the now exclusive gentrified gay neighborhoods in expensive large cities and who vacation in the now very expensive gay resorts such as Provincetown and Fire Island and Palm Springs. They only see others who are like them in the street and gym and parties, only meet and socialize with others who are like them, and have an enormously skewed view of what the “average” is.

    Thus, fortunes are spent on one issue, namely marriage, that affects upper middle class and wealthy white gays, while other more important gay rights and health issues that disproportionately affect the working poor (most of the rest of us) are ignored.

  • martymartymarty

    What “viveutvivas” said. 110%.

  • Mr. E. Jones



    hen I realized that I was too ugly and fat to get laid, or get a job, I saved every penny I made, until I could start my own business, and never looked back. I may die alone, but I won’t die in poverty.

  • mlbumiller

    Why would the gay sub-population be any different then the hetro majority? Some other differences is that you have to be 6ft tall, look like some fitness rag cover models and have a 8in+…… to be a “real” gay man

  • BrianZ


    Ah, so in other words people tend to socialize with and be visible to people who are similar to them in important ways, including socioeconomic status. And those same people tend to spend their money on causes that are important to them. Shocking news!

    I do take issue with your implication that marriage is the domain of the upper-middle class and wealthy white gays. It seems to me that access to the benefits of marriage, including fair and equal access to healthcare, would be of importance to everyone. The importance of making sure that couples relationships are respected in and by law is universal. Just because someone else’s pet project doesn’t line up with your priorities doesn’t make that pet project any less worthy or applicable in general.

  • jennawaha

    Although the article omits it, the statistics are even worse for the T in our acronym. Where unemployment rates are twice the rate of the general population and rates for trans* people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate in the USA. (This is just from the summary of ‘A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey’ by NCTE + the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

    The worst problems facing the majority of GLBT folks today are doubtless homelessness, access to insurance and and job discrimination. I’m lucky to be in a position where I don’t suffer from those issues, but many of my friends do.

  • boring

    I am poor.

    Please give me money.

  • erasure25

    @viveutvivas: True. But then the devils advocate says non-rich people should organize and demand rights that are more important to them, such as employment non-discrimination instead of letting the rich gays carry the gay torch. It actually doesn’t take a lot of money to organize with Facebook twitter and so forth. I’m just not a big fan of the “woe is me lets complain but rely on others to do the work mentality” -a mentality that afflicts us all from time to time.

  • jeff4justice

    @viveutvivas: Amen.

    @viveutvivas nothing wrong with rich hanging out with rich but if well-to-do LGBTs expect empathy for their oppression they need to show some caring for the oppression of other people too.

    @erasure25 Yes, LGBT folks should be insisting that any LGBT centers should be helping LGBTs in poverty especially with employment searching such as job-search carpool coordination and gas card donations.

    @jennawaha thanks for reminding us of the need to be mindful and helpful of our transgender brothers and sisters and the economic adversities they face.

  • jeff4justice


    @BrianZ nothing wrong with rich hanging out with rich but if well-to-do LGBTs expect empathy for their oppression they need to show some caring for the oppression of other people too.

  • hamoboy

    @BrianZ: The problem with the wealthy white gay men portion of the LGBT community framing marriage equality as “The Most Important Civil Rights Issue Of Out Time!™” is that for everybody else, they often have more pressing problems (like violent to the point of fatal homophobia in their homes/workplaces, no healthcare at all because they are homeless gay/trans teens that were kicked out of their homes, etc).
    It’s very easy to bring your pride flag to work when you have a white collar job or work in the fashion/entertainment industry. It’s much harder (and much more dangerous) to bring your pride flag to the steel mill or coal mine. The fact of the matter is that wealthy gays have formed safe enclaves in large cities where they change their facebook profiles to the red equal sign and “like” George Takei’s latest witticism, while poor gays living in the ghetto or in small towns can quite literally die if their otherness is discovered. Marriage itself is an institution entered into often by people whose lives are stable and happy, two words that do not describe many working class or rural gay people.
    We’re big boys and girls (and other gendered individuals), we can push for more than one thing at a time. Job protection against discrimination with actual teeth in the language? Healthcare for everyone? Better health services targeted at homeless gay/trans youth? Push for sex education to contain LGBT relevant information?

  • kevininbuffalo

    As a blue collar Bi Steelworker I’d like to thank you for your comment. Some of the A list Gays should walk in our shoes for a while. They’d grow up real fast!

  • BrianZ

    @hamoboy: I agree that more can be done, needs to be done, to address ills within our community. I would also suggest that while there is a significant emphasis placed on achieving marriage equality that does not mean that this emphasis is at the exclusion of donating/supporting other causes. I, personally, support multiple causes with resources and time, as do most people I know. I still stand by my point that people have every right to decide what is important to them, and to support causes accordingly.

    While I’m at it, I believe it’s in poor taste to suggest that one person’s trials are any greater to bear than another. Suggesting that one is somehow insulated against the bigotry and hatred of homophobia is ignorant at best. Each of us carries the burden of watching over our shoulders, knowing fear. Don’t trivialize or marginalize that. I would suggest that is beneath you.

    I’m weary of people online suggesting that a few somehow find the resources to “do more” when they likely haven’t done a thing other than write some trite post on Queerty. If everyone who could identify an area of need donated time/resources towards that need we’d be a lot better off as a whole. I obviously have no idea how involved you or anyone on here is, but it certainly sounds if some are waiting on someone else to do the work for them, or at the very least to fund it.

    For me, I’m going to keep on keeping on because I know I make a difference. I hope y’all can say the same. And if you can’t say it today, step up and do better tomorrow.

  • hamoboy

    @kevininbuffalo: I still remember what you said about Alyssa Edwards a while ago. There’s nothing WRONG with being feminine, or working in a white collar or entertainment job. While I thank you for concurring with me about homophobia facing working class LGBT, I would suggest you turn your hostility against working class homophobic people and culture that create such a hostile environment for you, rather than blaming feminine and middle class gays for “perpetuating stereotypes” whatever that means. Maybe the straight homophobes could “grow up” and stop being homophobic?
    Sexism and homophobia are very closely entwined, and when a gay or bisexual man expresses negative views (not neutral, but negative) about femininity, it suggests a lot of internalized homophobia.

    @BrianZ: It was not my intention to marginalize the problems any particular section of the LGBT experience, I merely meant to point out the difference in circumstances different LGBT people go through due to their different socioeconomic backgrounds.
    I myself come from an ethnic background that is predominantly working class and highly religious. Who in my community is closeted or not depends strongly on their occupations and gender expressions, so I merely wanted to point out how different people might have different priorities.
    I volunteer at a sexual health counselling program where we sit around and give pamphlets and advice to little young thangs that come in blushing and mumbling. Quite a few kids get sent to clinics where they find out they have UTIs. Condoms aren’t just for preventing the normal STIs, I learnt.
    The closet is a hell of a thing, I had to get over a lot of bullshit before coming out of it, and I notice in my volunteering that the less “gay” the kids looked/presented themselves, the more likely they were to stay firmly in the closet. I suppose what we need amongst ourselves is more understanding and patience for each other. Of course, we shouldn’t tolerate bullshit and internalized homophobia.

  • frshmn

    It’s pretty easy to live in a bubble, gay or straight, if you’re successful and live in a chic area of Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco.

Comments are closed.