Pennsylvania’s legal landscape puts the state’s 416,000 LGBT adults and 74,000 LGBT youth at risk of discrimination and harassment. The social, economic, and health effects of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people negatively impact Pennsylvania’s economy by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
In the study, researchers assessed the prevalence and impact of several forms of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people in Pennsylvania, including harassment and discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; harassment and bullying in schools; and family rejection of LGBT youth.
Results show that nearly half (47%) of LGBT employees living in Pennsylvania have experienced discrimination or harassment at some point in their lives. An estimated 38% have looked for other jobs because of how they were personally treated by their employer or because the workplace was uncomfortable for LGBT people, and 11% have left a job because of unfair treatment by their employer.
“Pennsylvania has an opportunity to create a more supportive climate for LGBT people by, for example, including sexual orientation and gender identity in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law, and codifying protections against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination for prospective parents in adoption and foster care,” said lead author Christy Mallory, State & Local Policy Director at the Williams Institute.
Many LGBT people in Pennsylvania experience economic instability.
- 27% of LGBT adults in Pennsylvania reported having an annual household income below $24,000, compared to 18% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data. Similarly, 26% of LGBT adults in the state reported that they do not have enough money for food, compared to 13% of non-LGBT adults.
- 11% of LGBT adults in Pennsylvania reported that they were unemployed compared to 5% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data.
LGBT people in the state experience negative health outcomes associated with stigma and discrimination.
- Research indicates that stigma and discrimination contribute to adverse health outcomes for LGBT adults, such as major depressive disorder, binge drinking, substance use, and suicidality.
- LGBT adults in Pennsylvania are significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, to binge drink, and to smoke than non-LGBT adults. According to data from the 2017 and 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey:
- 42% of LGBT adults in Pennsylvania reported having been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to 20% of non-LGBT adults.
- 31% of LGBT adults in the state reported binge drinking compared to 17% of non-LGBT adults.
- 32% of LGBT adults in the state reported that they currently smoke compared to 18% of non-LGBT adults.
Health disparities for LGBT people negatively impact Pennsylvania’s economy.
- Reducing the disparity in major depressive disorder between LGBT and non-LGBT people in Pennsylvania by 25% to 33.3% could benefit the state’s economy by $170 million to $225 million annually in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
- Reducing the disparity in binge drinking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $70 million to $93 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
- Reducing the disparity in current smoking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $112 million to $149 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.