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One in five LGBT people in the US live in poverty
2019-10-22

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A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that 21.6% of LGBT people in the U.S. experience poverty, compared to 15.7% of cisgender straight people. Among LGBT people, poverty rates differ by sexual orientation and gender identity with transgender people and cisgender bisexual women faring the worst. Nearly one in three ( 29.4% ) transgender people and cisgender bisexual women fall below the official poverty threshold.

Researchers analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, a representative sample of LGBT people in 35 states from 2014-2017, to assess poverty rates of LGBT people. In addition, they examined the effects of age, race, urbanicity, language, and disability, as well as education, marital status, employment status, and health on poverty.

"Our study shows that all subpopulations of LGBT people fare the same or worse than cisgender straight people," said lead author M.V. Lee Badgett, a Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. "And factors like living in a rural area can prove especially challenging to their economic stability. As a whole, LGBT people have at least 15% higher odds of being poor than cisgender straight people."

KEY FINDINGS

Among LGBT people, poverty rates differ by sexual orientation and gender identity:

Cisgender gay men: 12.1%

Cisgender lesbian women: 17.9%

Cisgender bisexual men: 19.5%

Cisgender bisexual women: 29.4%

Transgender people: 29.4%

Cisgender straight men ( 13.4% ) and gay men have similar rates of poverty and their poverty rates are lower than every other group.

Cisgender lesbian women have similar rates of poverty as cisgender straight women ( 17.8% ). However, women of all sexual orientations have significantly higher rates of poverty than cisgender straight men and gay men.

LGBT people of most races and ethnicities show higher rates of poverty than their cisgender straight counterparts.

One in five ( 21% ) LGBT people in urban areas live in poverty, and one in four ( 26.1% ) in rural areas are poor, compared to about 16% of cisgender straight people in both areas.

"LGBT people are more likely to be people of color, young, and disabled—all social statuses and characteristics that are known to be independently related to poverty rates," said study author Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. "Some LGBT groups, such as gay men, are more likely to have higher levels of education, fewer children, and live in urban areas, which can help protect them from poverty. However, even when we control for these factors, we find LGBT people are still more likely to experience poverty than their cisgender straight counterparts."

Read the report: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/National-LGBT-Poverty-Oct-2019.pdf .

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

—From a press release


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