1.2 million Black LGBT adults live in the US

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that an estimated 1.2 million adults in the U.S. identify as Black and LGBT.

Researchers found that Black 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, Black LGBT adults face disparities in mental and physical health, such as depression, asthma, and disability.

However, similarities were found between the two groups, including the likelihood of being a parent among women, experiences of victimization and discrimination, and levels of resilience through social support systems.

“The notable disparities in economic security and health outcomes indicate a critical need for policies and service interventions that address the unique needs of Black LGBT adults,” said lead author Soon Kyu Choi, Project Manager at the Williams Institute.

Key Findings

Demographic characteristics

  • An estimated 1,210,000 U.S. adults self-identify as Black and LGBT.
  • Over half (57%) of Black LGBT adults are under age 35 compared to 34% of Black non-LGBT adults.
  • An estimated 61% of Black LGBT adults are women compared to 56% of Black non-LGBT adults who are women.
  • Over one-third (36%) of Black LGBT adults are raising children.

Economic characteristics

  • Over half (56%) of Black LGBT households had a low income (below 200% of the federal poverty level) compared to 49% of Black non-LGBT people.
  • Nearly 40% of Black LGBT adults have a household income below $24,000 per year compared to 33% of Black non-LGBT adults.
  • Black LGBT adults are more likely to be unemployed (14% compared to 10%) and to experience food insecurity (37% compared to 27%) than Black non-LGBT adults.

Mental and physical health

  • Over one-quarter (26%) of Black LGBT adults have been diagnosed with depression compared to 15% of Black non-LGBT adults.
  • Among Black LGBT adults, 56% are tested for HIV at least once a year while 24% had never been tested for HIV.

Victimization and stress

  • More than half (55%) of Black LGBT adults said where they live is not a good place for transgender people and 39% said it is not a good place for LGB people.
  • Many Black LGBT adults reported experiencing victimization including verbal insults or abuse (79%), being threatened with violence (60%), and being physically or sexually assaulted (44%).
  • Many Black LGBT adults reported experiencing stressful events within the past year including unemployment (45%), being fired or laid off from a job (26%), and a major financial crisis (43%).
  • More than three-quarters of both Black LGBT and non-LGBT adults reported experiences with everyday discrimination.

Social support

  • About 62% of Black cisgender LGB adults and 29% of Black transgender adults reported feeling connected to the LGBT or their gender minority community.
  • Nearly half of Black LGBT (48%) and non-LGBT (46%) adults reported feeling connected to Black communities.

“Our study found that being LGBT is an important factor in understanding the health and well being of Black people in the U.S.” said co-author Bianca D.M. Wilson, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Black LGBT adults tend to be younger, live in urban areas, and experience higher levels of stressful employment events like firings than their non-LGBT counterparts. This may help explain some of the differences we observed in economic stability and health outcomes between the two groups.”

This study is the first publication 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

January 13, 2021

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

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