Post Recession, LGB Americans Are More Likely to be Poor than Heterosexual Americans

For Immediate Distribution
June 3, 2013

Laura Rodriguez
,, (310) 956-2425
Donald Gatlin,, (202) 821-7923
M.V. Lee Badgett,, (310) 904-9761

Particularly vulnerable populations include women, children and African Americans

As poverty rates for nearly all populations increased during the recession, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Americans remained more likely to be poor than heterosexual people. Key findings include:

• African American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans.

• One third of lesbian couples and 20.1 % of gay male couples without a high school diploma are in poverty, compared to 18.8% of different-sex married couples.

• Lesbian couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor (14.1%), compared to 4.5% of coupled lesbians in large cities. 10.2% of men in same-sex couples, who live in small metropolitan areas, are poor, compared with only 3.3% of coupled gay men in large metropolitan areas.

• Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2% of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1% of children living with married different-sex couples. African American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3%) of any children in any household type.

• 14.1% of lesbian couples and 7.7% of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5% of different-sex married couples. Also, 2.2% of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance, compared to .8% of women in different sex couples; 1.2% of men in same-sex couples, compared to .6% of men in different-sex couples, receive cash assistance.

Data from the California Health Interview Survey reveal a better picture for California’s LGB community as compared to the rest of the country.  8.4% of gay men in California are poor, compared to 13.7% of heterosexual men. 8.1% of lesbians are poor, compared to 16.8% of heterosexual women.  Same-sex couples are also less likely than different-sex married couples to be poor. Though more research is needed, these lower poverty levels could be related to greater acceptance of LGB people and same-sex couples in California, less discrimination in family policy and employment, and a more supportive social climate.

The study updates and extends a similar, first-of-its kind Williams Institute report released in 2009 that was based on data from the first half of the last decade. The new report draws on recent data from four datasets to estimate recent poverty rates for different groups of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual population: the 2010 American Community Survey (for same-sex couples), the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (for LGB people aged 18-44), the 2007-2009 California Health Interview Survey (for LGB people 18 and older living in California), and the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll (for single LGBT-identified adults) over the June 1 – September 30, 2012 time period.

The report, entitled New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community, was authored by Williams Institute Researchers, M.V. Lee Badgett, Laura Durso, and Alyssa Schneebaum.

Click here for the full report.


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