Transgender people three times more likely than cisgender people to face food insufficiency during the pandemic

During the pandemic, an estimated 25% of transgender adults in the U.S. reported not having enough to eat in the past week, compared to 8% of cisgender adults, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Transgender people of color and those living at or below the federal poverty level were particularly affected by food insufficiency.

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

Results show that transgender people were almost twice as likely as cisgender people to encounter barriers to accessing food beyond affordability, including an inability to get out to buy food (24% vs 12%, respectively) and safety concerns (22% vs. 12%, respectively).

“Transgender people face high rates of poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on LGBT people,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “The commonality of food insufficiency among transgender people shows how critical it is to ensure access to jobs that pay livable wages and to improve access to food resources for this highly marginalized population.”

Key Findings

  • Around a third of transgender adults (31%) were living at or below the federal poverty level (FPL).
  • Transgender people were three times as likely as cisgender people to experience food insufficiency (25% vs. 8%).
  • Transgender people of color (36%) were more likely to experience food insufficiency than cisgender people of color (13%), transgender white people (17%), and cisgender white people (6%).
  • 42% of transgender adults who earned less than 130% of the FPL—the amount set by the federal government to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—experienced food insufficiency in the past week, compared to 23% of cisgender adults in the same income bracket.
    • 29% of transgender adults and 13% of cisgender adults living between 131% and 200% of the FPL, and therefore not income-eligible for SNAP, faced food insufficiency.
  • Overall, transgender adults were more likely to rely on food resources, including food banks (14%) and SNAP (20%), compared to their cisgender counterparts (6% and 12%, respectively); however, levels of utilization were below levels of need.
  • Of those who met the income requirement for SNAP eligibility, around one-third (31%) of transgender adults and 39% of cisgender adults were enrolled in the program.

Read the report

December 14, 2021

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