LGBT People Are Disproportionately Food Insecure

For Immediate Distribution

February 5, 2014

Laura Rodriguez,, (310) 956-2425
Donald Gaitlin,, (202) 587-2871

29% could not feed themselves or their families in the last year

LOS ANGELES— 2.4 million (29%) LGBT adults experienced a time in the last year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family, according to a new Williams Institute study authored by demographer Gary J. Gates. LGBT people experience disproportionate levels of food insecurity and higher participation rates in the SNAP program, especially those raising children, a risk that persists despite possible differences in demographic characteristics between LGBT and non-LGBT individuals like gender, age, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment. For example, data suggest that same-sex couples raising children are approximately twice as likely to receive food stamps as different-sex couples with children.

“These data provide the first opportunity to understand the extent to which LGBT people in the U.S. experience some aspects of food insecurity and use food stamps,” said Gates. “The farm bill Congress passed yesterday cut food stamps, and we now know that LGBT communities will be disproportionately affected by that legislation.”

According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 49 million Americans (nearly 16%) were food insecure in 2012.  Food insecurity is generally defined as having limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal program designed to alleviate food insecurity.   More than 47 million Americans (nearly one in five adults) participate in SNAP, which provides food purchase assistance to low and no-income individuals.

Notably, bisexuals along with LGBT women and people of color are particularly vulnerable to high rates of food insecurity and SNAP participation. One in four bisexuals (25 percent) receive food stamps; 34 percent of LGBT women were food insecure in the last year; and LGBT African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians experienced food insecurity in the last year at rates of 37 percent, 55 percent, and 78 percent respectively.

Other key findings include:

•  More than one 1 in 5 LGB adults aged 18-44 (21%), approximately 1.1 million, participated in the SNAP program through receipt of food stamps in the past year.

•  More than 1 in 8 same-sex couples (13%), approximately 84,000 couples, participated in SNAP in the last year.

•  More than 4 in 10 LGB adults age 18-44 raising children (43%), approximately 650,000, participated in SNAP.

•  More than 1 in 4 same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 (26%), approximately 27,000 couples, participated in SNAP.

•  Rates of food insecurity are higher for LGBT adults when compared to heterosexual adults across several national surveys, and across gender, age, racial/ethnic, and education level groups.  After taking these factors into account:

– LGBT adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-LGBT adults to not have had enough money to feed themselves or their family in the past year.
– LGB adults aged 18-44 are 1.3 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.
– Same-sex couples are 1.7 times more likely than different-sex couples to receive food stamps.
– LGB adults aged 18-44 raising children are 1.8 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.
– Same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 are 2.1 times more likely than comparable different-sex couples to receive food stamps.

This research brief analyzes data from three national population-based surveys that include measures of LGBT identity or being part of a same-sex couple along with measures of food insecurity or participation in SNAP.  Both descriptive and multivariate analyses were used.

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