Prior Williams Institute research has shown that many LGBT adults are at higher risk of serious illness related to COVID-19 and its resulting negative economic impacts. This report provides new data on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT people collected in the fall of 2020.
Drawing upon data collected by Ipsos from a nationally representative sample of over 12,000 adults between August 21, 2020 to December 21, 2020, our main finding is that the impact of the pandemic on LGBT communities cannot be fully understood without considering race and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. In short, across a number of indicators, LGBT people of color are more likely to experience the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 than non-LGBT White people. They are also more likely to follow public health measures, such as getting tested for COVID-19, social distancing, and wearing masks than non-LGBT White people.
Questions that measure respondents’ trust in government and public health officials regarding COVID-19 show that LGBT people were less likely to trust the Trump administration and pharmaceutical companies’ handling of the pandemic and more likely to trust the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state governments, and other public health officials. With a change to the Biden administration, restoring trust in institutions that are critical to successfully vaccinating LGBT communities, and in particular LGBT communities of color, will be critical.
Finally, most government data collection efforts focused on COVID-19 do not include sexual orientation and gender identity measures. These omissions, including from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, as well as other state and federal efforts to track deaths and disease more generally, hinder efforts to incorporate the needs of LGBT populations into COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Health Impacts of COVID-19
- Among those who have tested for COVID-19, positivity rates were similar between LGBT people (10.3%) and non-LGBT people (8.6%).
- However, when taking race and ethnicity into account LGBT people of color (14.5%) and non- LGBT people of color (10.6%) had higher positivity rates than non-LGBT White people (7.3%).
- Further, LGBT people of color (32.1%) and non-LGBT people of color (30.9%) were over 50% more likely than White LGBT and White non-LGBT respondents (21.3% and 19.8%) to personally know someone who died of COVID-19.
Economic Impacts of COVID-19
LGBT respondents were more likely than non-LGBT respondents to be laid off (12.4% v. 7.8%) or furloughed from their jobs (14.1% v. 9.7%), report problems affording basic household goods (23.5% v. 16.8%), and report having problems paying their rent or mortgage (19.9% v. 11.7%).
When taking race and ethnicity into account, fewer non-LGBT White respondents reported negative economic consequences of the pandemic than LGBT White, LGBT people of color, and non-LGBT people of color respondents. Members of each of these groups were over twice as likely to have been laid off or temporality furloughed from work when compared to non- LGBT White adults.
Similarly, LGBT people of color were over twice as likely to report having less ability to pay for household goods in the two weeks before the survey (28.7% v. 14.2%) and over three times as likely to report having less ability to pay their rent or mortgage (26.3% v. 8.8%) than non-LGBT White respondents.
Following Public Health Recommendations & Vaccination
LGBT respondents were more likely to report being concerned about getting sick from COVID-19 (85.1% v. 75.0%), wearing a mask outside of the home (94.0% v. 89.9%), and practicing social distancing (80.0% v. 75.0%) than their non-LGBT counterparts.
White LGBT people, LGBT people of color, and non-LGBT people of color were more likely to report being concerned about getting sick with COVID-19, wearing a mask outside of the home, and practicing social distancing than non-LGBT White respondents. For example, 92.3% of LGBT people of color reported wearing a mask all or some of the time outside of the home compared to 86.7% of non-LGBT White respondents.
A smaller percentage of non-LGBT people of color (40.3%) report that they intend to get the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines than LGBT White (54.0%) and non-LGBT White respondents (49.0%).
Trust in Government and Public Health Institutions
During the final months of the Trump administration, fewer LGBT respondents than non-LGBT respondents reported trusting the federal government to provide accurate information about COVID-19 (31.1% v. 38.2%).
In contrast, more LGBT respondents than non-LGBT respondents reported trusting the CDC (75.6% v. 69.5%) and national public health officials (74.2% v. 67.5%) for COVID-19 information.
- Perhaps the most dramatic difference between LGBT and non-LGBT adults is that while 40.9% of non-LGBT respondents indicated that pharmaceutical companies have their best interest in mind, only 28.2% of LGBT respondents felt similarly.
Collected during the surge in the pandemic in the fall and early winter of 2020, these data show the disparate impact of COVID-19 on LGBT people in general and LGBT people of color in particular. Policy and other interventions aimed at ending the pandemic and facilitating economic recovery must address the needs of LGBT people, including LGBT people of color. Specifically, data collection efforts related to COVID-19 must immediately add sexual orientation and gender identity questions, and vaccination efforts must address the built-up distrust in the federal government and pharmaceutical companies among LGBT people and people of color more generally.
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