Sexual minority U.S. adults are poorer than their straight peers

Immediate Release
September 6, 2018

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Sexual minorities in the U.S. have fewer economic resources than their straight peers and the gap is more pronounced among women, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from 14,051 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and found that sexual minority women were more likely to be near poor, receive public assistance and report economic hardship in the past year. In addition, sexual minority women were less likely to graduate from college and were twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to heterosexual women. Among women, sexual orientation inequities in homeownership were more pronounced for whites than racial minorities. However, rates of homeownership were the lowest for Black and Latina sexual minority women and were the highest for heterosexual white women.

“Socioeconomic status is a major contributor to health and disease throughout a person’s life,” said Conron said lead author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Understanding the extent and nature of sexual orientation differences in socioeconomic status is essential to reducing health inequities, particular as the population of sexual minorities grows and ages.”

Fewer sexual orientation differences in economic status existed for men. Sexual minority men were more likely than their straight peers to have a college education. Yet, they earned less and were more likely to report economic hardship in the past year than straight men, which could indicate that sexual minority men face wage discrimination.

In addition, socioeconomic status among men differed by race. White sexual minority men were less likely than white heterosexual men to be among the highest earners. But Black and Latino sexual minority men did better economically than their Black and Latino heterosexual peers.

“These patterns suggest that multiple forms of inequality, as well as factors that promote resilience, must be considered in analyses of the diverse LGBT community,” said Conron. “Moreover, findings emphasize the need to include LGBT measures in large surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau, including the American Community Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, in order to better track, understand, and respond to observed economic inequities.”

The report, “Sexual orientation and sex differences in socioeconomic status: a population-based investigation in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health,” appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and is co-authored by Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute, along with Shoshana K. Goldberg, Research Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Carolyn T. Halpern, Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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