LGBT people of color three times more likely than white non-LGBT adults to face food insufficiency during the pandemic

During the pandemic, an estimated 13% of LGBT adults in the U.S. reported not having enough to eat in the past week, compared to 8% of non-LGBT adults, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Food insufficiency was more common among some parts of the LGBT community. Food insufficiency was reported by three times as many LGBT people of color as non-LGBT White people (17% vs 6%).

In addition, nearly twice as many LGBT people with a high school degree or less experienced food insufficiency than non-LGBT people with the same level of education. Food insufficiency was most common among transgender people, cisgender bisexual people, and cisgender lesbian women.

Using data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey collected between July and October 2021, researchers examined experiences of food insufficiency among LGBT and non-LGBT adults. Food insufficiency is defined as sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last seven days.

Results show that more than a quarter (27%) of LGBT people who earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level—the amount set by the federal government to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—experienced food insufficiency in the past week. Only 37% of income-eligible LGBT people and 39% of non-LGBT people were enrolled in SNAP.

“More than one in five LGBT people experience poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate economic impact on LGBT people,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Elevated levels of food insufficiency among vulnerable subpopulations within the LGBT community may require tailored outreach to improve access to food and financial resources.”

Key Findings

  • During the pandemic, more than one-fifth (22%) of LGBT adults were living below the federal poverty level (FPL).
  • More than one-third (35%) of LGBT adults reported difficulty paying for household expenses, including but not limited to food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, and student loans in the last week.
  • LGBT people of color (17%) were more likely to experience food insufficiency than non-LGBT people of color (12%), LGBT white people (10%), and non-LGBT white people (6%).
  • More LGBT people with a high school degree or less (23%) experienced food insufficiency than non-LGBT people with the same level of education (13%).
  • Food insufficiency was more common among transgender adults (20%), cisgender bisexual women (13%) and men (14%), and cisgender lesbian women (12%) than cisgender straight women and men (8%).
  • Most LGBT (86%) and non-LGBT (82%) adults reported that their inability to afford more food was the cause of insufficient food in their households.
  • More LGBT people than non-LGBT people reported barriers to accessing food, including not being able to get out to buy food (20% and 11%, respectively) and safety concerns (15% and 11%, respectively).

Read the report

April 14, 2022

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