$15 Wage Would Lift Nearly 30,000 People In Same Sex Couples Out of Poverty

For Immediate Release:
September 13, 2016
Media Contact:
Noel Alumit, alumit@law.ucla.edu
Office: 310-794-2332


Raise in minimum wage would see 46% drop in poverty for female couples and 35% drop in male couples 

Los Angeles—This week it was announced that the official United States poverty rate for 2015 was 13.5%, with 43.1 million in poverty.  This figure did not discuss the vulnerability to poverty of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. However, a new study out today shows that poverty remains a significant problem for LGBT people and that a $15 minimum wage would reduce poverty substantially for LGBT people.

In The Impact of a $15 Minimum Wage on Poverty Among Same Sex Couples, researchers M.V. Lee Badgett and Alyssa Schneebaum draw on data on same-sex couples to show the effect of a higher minimum wage on that segment of the LGBT community. Raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 to $15 an hour would reduce LGBT poverty dramatically.

“There are some who believe that the LGBT community is wealthy, but that’s a misleading stereotype,” said Williams Distinguished Scholar, M.V. Lee Badgett. “Looking at same-sex couples shows that some groups of LGBT people are even more likely to be poor than are heterosexual people. Raising the minimum wage would help everybody, including lifting tens of thousands of people in same-sex couples out of poverty.”

Key findings include:

  • The percentage of poor female same-sex couples would fall from 6.9% to 3.7%, a 46% drop in poverty.
  • Poverty among men in same-sex couples would fall from 3.4% to 2.2%, a drop of 35% in poverty.
  • The poverty rates of married different-sex couples would also decrease from 5.6% to 3.1%.
  • Almost 30,000 people in same-sex couples would see their family incomes rise above the poverty level.

To make these predictions, Badgett and Schneebaum used the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) to compare same-sex and different-sex couples and to simulate what happens to families’ incomes if the lowest wage earners were paid $15 an hour. Badgett and Schneebaum used the official federal definition of poverty, which is having an income that falls below the federal poverty threshold.

Read the Report


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

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