685,000 AAPI LGBT adults live in the US

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that an estimated 685,000 adults in the U.S. identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) and LGBT.

Researchers found that AAPI LGBT people fare worse than their non-LGBT counterparts in many measures of economic and social vulnerability, including employment, income level, food insecurity, and healthcare access. In addition, AAPI LGBT adults face disparities in mental and physical health, such as depression, asthma, and chronic health conditions.

This study provides information on the well-being of AAPI adults, including separate findings on Asian Americans (AA) and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Results show that many of the socioeconomic and health disparities between AAPI LGBT and non-LGBT adults are driven by the high percentage of NHPI LGBT adults who experience vulnerabilities compared to other groups of adults.

“Results show that before the pandemic, nearly one in five AAPI LGBT adults in the U.S. said they felt unsafe in their communities while nearly one in three NHPI LGBT adults reported feeling unsafe,” said lead author Soon Kyu Choi, Project Manager at the Williams Institute. “It is likely that feeling unsafe or insecure has heightened in the past year among AAPI people with the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans.”

Key Findings

Demographic Characteristics

  • There are an estimated 685,000 LGBT AAPI-identified adults in the U.S.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of AAPI LGBT adults were under age 35 compared to 56% of AAPI non-LGBT adults.
  • The majority (59%) of all AAPI LGBT people ages 25 and older had a college education. However, AA LGBT people (70%) were over twice as likely to have a college education as NHPI LGBT people (31%).
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of AA LGBT adults were raising children compared to 42% of AA non-LGBT adults. NHPI LGBT adults (51%) were raising children at similar rates to NHPI non-LGBT adults (47%).

Economic Characteristics

  • About one-fifth (21%) of AAPI LGBT adults live at a household income below $24,000 per year compared to 15% of AAPI non-LGBT people.
  • AAPI LGBT adults were more likely to be unemployed (10% compared to 6%) and to experience food insecurity (16% compared to 8%) than AAPI non-LGBT adults.
  • Economic disparity was even more pronounced among NHPI people; 14% of NHPI LGBT adults were unemployed compared to 8% of NHPI non-LGBT adults, and 40% of NHPI LGBT adults experienced food insecurity compared to 22% of NHPI non-LGBT adults.

Mental and Physical Health

  • Over one-fifth (21%) of AAPI LGBT adults had been diagnosed with depression compared to 7% of AAPI non-LGBT adults.
  • Among women, 30% of AAPI LGBT women had been diagnosed with depression compared to 9% of AAPI non-LGBT women.
  • 13% of AAPI LGBT adults were uninsured compared to 10% of AAPI non-LGBT adults.

Discrimination and Stress

  • 17% of AAPI LGBT adults disagreed with the statement “You always feel safe and secure” compared to 7% of AAPI non-LGBT adults. Rates of feeling unsafe were particularly high for NHPI LGBT adults (26%) and NHPI non-LGBT adults (12%).
  • More than half of AAPI transgender adults (56%) reported experiencing physical assault and threats, and 63% reported experiencing verbal assault or abuse. These data were not available for cisgender AAPI LGB adults.

Social Support

  • The majority (78%) of AAPI transgender adults reported feeling connected to the transgender community.
  • Less than half (41%) of AAPI transgender adults reported feeling connected to the AAPI community.

“These disparities in economic security and health outcomes indicate a critical need for policies and service interventions that address the unique needs of AAPI LGBT adults,” said co-author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “However AAPI LGBT people are not experiencing all these issues at the same level. AAPI subgroups have distinct levels of vulnerability that require specific attention.”

This study is part of the Williams Institute’s LGBT Well-Being at the Intersection of Race series, which examines demographic characteristics and key indicators of well-being, including mental health, physical health, economic health, and social and cultural experiences, of different racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The series also includes analyses by region.


Read the report

May 19, 2021

Media Contact: Rachel Dowd
Office: 310-206-8982

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