Nearly one-third of Asian LGBT immigrants in California live in poverty

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that while most Asian LGBT non-citizens in California are in the workforce, almost a third (31%) of them live at less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Half of those with low incomes are food insecure, though relatively few (18%) are enrolled in the CalFresh food stamp benefits program.

Asian LGBT non-citizens are younger and less likely to be married or raising children than their non-LGBT counterparts. More than half (52%) speak one or more Asian languages at home, including Cantonese, Tagalog, Korean, and Vietnamese, in addition to English.

Using data from the California Health Interview Survey, researchers examined the demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics of Asian LGBT non-citizen immigrants. Results show that Asian LGBT non-citizens fare worse than their non-LGBT counterparts on measures of social vulnerability, including barriers to accessing health care and higher rates of psychological distress.

Asian LGBT non-citizens are five times more likely to face psychological distress than their non-LGBT peers (27% vs 5%, respectively), yet over a third (39%) of them do not have a usual source of health care.

“Given these findings, outreach and support programs should consider the unique needs and challenges faced by Asian LGBT non-citizens, including their intersectional experiences of anti-Asian prejudice, LGBT stigma, and xenophobia,” said co-author M Pease, 2023 Williams Institute Palm Fellow. “Programs should invest in bridging the gaps between their services and marginalized communities to ensure Asian LGBT immigrants have access to care and support. These efforts may look like relationship-building, ensuring linguistic and financial accessibility, and developing cultural competence among providers.”

Key Findings

  • More than half of Asian LGBT non-citizens (cisgender and transgender) identified as bisexual (58%) and 28% as gay or lesbian, while 13% identified as heterosexual and transgender.
  • About two-thirds (68%) of Asian LGBT non-citizens are under age 35 compared to 44% of their non-LGBT peers.
  • More than one-quarter (28%) of Asian LGBT non-citizens are married or cohabitating compared to 68% of their non-LGBT counterparts.
  • About 7% of Asian LGBT non-citizens are living with children compared to 38% of their non-LGBT peers.

“More research on Asian LGBT non-citizens is needed, including research with large enough samples to compare the socioeconomic and health characteristics of Asian LGBT immigrants who are authorized to be in the U.S with those who are not,” said co-author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “The socioeconomic status of Asian migrants, in general and in California, varies widely by country of origin, so further research that allows comparisons by country of origin would also be valuable.”

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November 29, 2023

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