Michigan is home to over 311,000 LGBT adults and 61,000 LGBT youth. LGBT people in Michigan lack important legal protections that have been extended in other states. For example, statewide statutes in Michigan do not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. Though the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has issued guidance interpreting state laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination, the state legislature has challenged that decision. State laws in Michigan also fail to adequately protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment. In terms of social climate, Michigan ranks 20th in the nation on public support for LGBT rights and acceptance of LGBT people.
The legal landscape for LGBT people in Michigan likely contributes to an environment in which LGBT people experience stigma and discrimination. Stigma and discrimination can take many forms, including discrimination and harassment in employment and other settings; bullying, harassment, and family rejection of LGBT youth; overrepresentation in the criminal justice system; and violence. Research has linked stigma and discrimination against LGBT people to negative effects on individuals, businesses, and the economy.
In this study, we provide data and research documenting the prevalence of several forms of stigma and discrimination against LGBT adults and youth in Michigan, including discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and public accommodations; bullying and harassment in schools; and family rejection of LGBT youth. We discuss the implications of such stigma and discrimination on LGBT individuals, in terms of health and economic security; on employers, in terms of employee productivity, recruitment, and retention; and on the economy, in terms of health care costs and reduced productivity.
To the extent that Michigan is able to move toward creating a more supportive environment for LGBT people, it would likely reduce economic instability and health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals, which, in turn, would benefit the state, employers, and the economy.
Prevalence of Stigma and Discrimination against LGBT People
LGBT people in Michigan experience discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
- A 2016 survey of faculty at the University of Michigan found that 28% of LGBTQ+ faculty members reported experiencing at least one discriminatory event over the previous 12 months.
- The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey report found that 22% of transgender respondents from Michigan experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job in the past year, and 27% reported being fired, being denied a promotion, or not being hired for a job they applied for in the past year because of their gender identity or expression.
In addition, one-quarter of respondents from Michigan said that they had experienced some form of housing discrimination in the past year, and nearly one-third of respondents said they had been discriminated against or harassed at a place of public accommodation in the past year.
- A 2012 survey of 1,000 Michigan residents who identified as LGBT and LGBT allies found evidence of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the state.
In response to the survey, 55% of respondents reported experiencing some form of discrimination or harassment based on their sexual orientation, 19% reported experiencing some form of discrimination or harassment based on their gender expression, and 16% reported experiencing some form of discrimination based on their gender identity.
- In response to a 2016 poll, 60% of Michigan residents said that they thought that gay and lesbian people experience a lot of discrimination in the U.S. and 61% of Michigan residents said that they thought that transgender people experience a lot of discrimination in the U.S.
- An analysis of aggregated public opinion data collected from 2011 through 2013 found that 80%of Michigan residents, non-LGBT and LGBT, thought that LGBT people experience discrimination in the state.
- Discrimination against LGBT people in Michigan has also been documented in a number of court cases and the media. Instances of employment discrimination documented in these sources involve private and public sector workers in a range of occupations. Examples of discrimination in housing and public accommodations have also been documented in these sources.
LGBT youth in Michigan experience bullying and harassment at school.
- The 2017 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that LGB students were more likely to report being bullied at school (38.2% v. 21.1%) and electronically bullied (30.9% v. 17.9%) in the 12 months prior to the survey than heterosexual students.
- In addition, LGB students in Michigan were more likely than heterosexual students to report missing school because they felt unsafe at least once in the month prior to the survey (16.5% v.6.9%).
- The 2017 GLSEN National School Climate survey of LGBTQ middle- and high-school students found that 72% of respondents from Michigan said they had experienced verbal harassment based on their sexual orientation at school, and 58% said they had experienced verbal harassment based on their gender expression at school in the year prior to the survey.
Many students also reported experiencing physical harassment based on their sexual orientation (28%) or gender expression (22%) at school in the year prior to the survey.
- The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 55% of survey respondents from Michigan who were perceived to be transgender while in grades K-12 reported experiencing verbal harassment, 26% reported experiencing physical assault, and 10% reported experiencing sexual violence while in school.
- A 2016 survey of students at the University of Michigan found that 31% of LGBTQ+ students reported one or more experiences of derogatory treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the prior year.
Impact of Stigma and Discrimination on LGBT Individuals
LGBT people in Michigan experience economic instability.
- Stigma and discrimination against LGBT workers can lead to economic instability, including lower wages and higher rates of poverty.
- Gallup polling data from 2015-2017 show that 25% percent of LGBT adults in Michigan reported that they did not have enough money for food compared to 15% of non-LGBT adults in the state.
And, 28% of LGBT adults in Michigan reported having a household income below $24,000, compared to 20% of non-LGBT adults.
- The 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 19% of transgender respondents in Michigan were unemployed, and 30% were living in poverty.
In addition, 20% of respondents in Michigan reported experiencing homelessness in the past year because they were transgender.
LGBT adults and youth in Michigan experience health disparities.
- Research indicates that stigma and discrimination contribute to adverse health outcomes for LGBT people such as major depressive disorder, binge drinking, substance use, and suicidality. Similarly, bullying and family rejection, as well as social stigma more broadly, have been linked to an increased likelihood of school dropout, suicide, and substance use among LGBT youth.
- LGBT respondents to the 2015-2016 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys were significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder by a health care professional than non-LGBT respondents (44.2% v. 20.8%). In addition, LGBT adults in Michigan were significantly more likely to report current smoking (38.4% v. 20.3%) than non-LGBT adults.
- The 2017 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that LGB students were more likely to report that they have seriously considered suicide (53.4% v. 17.2%), have made a plan about how to commit suicide (44.7% v. 13.6%), and have injured themselves in a suicide attempt requiring medical care (7.7% v. 1.8%) in the year prior to the survey than heterosexual students.
LGB students in Michigan were also more likely than heterosexual students to report smoking cigarettes (27.0% v. 8.2%), drinking (40.0% v. 28.8%), and using marijuana (44.5% v. 21.5%) in the month prior to the survey.
Economic Impacts of Stigma and Discrimination
Discrimination against LGBT people in employment and other settings has economic consequences for employers and the state government.
- Productivity. Unsupportive work environments can mean that LGBT employees are less likely to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work, and more likely to be distracted, disengaged, or absent, and to be less productive. These outcomes could lead to economic losses for state and local governments, as employers, as well as private-sector employers in the state. Given that an estimated 229,000 workers in Michigan identify as LGBT, the loss in productivity from a discriminatory environment could be significant.
- Retention. LGBT employees in less supportive work environments feel less loyal to their employers and are more likely to plan to leave their jobs. Given the average replacement costs of an employee, public and private employers risk losing $9,660, on average, for each employee that leaves the state or changes jobs because of an unsupportive environment in Michigan.
- Recruitment. Many LGBT and non-LGBT workers, in particular those who are younger and more highly educated, prefer to work for companies with more LGBT-supportive policies, and in states with more supportive laws. To the extent that workers from other states perceive Michigan to be unsupportive of LGBT people, it may be difficult for public and private employers in the state to recruit talented employees from other places.
Bullying, harassment, and family rejection of LGBT youth negatively impact the economy.
- Bullying, harassment, and family rejection of LGBT youth can cause them to miss or drop out of school, become homeless, or unemployed or underemployed.
- In response to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, of those respondents from Michigan who said they had been harassed in school, 20% said the harassment was so severe that they had to leave school.
- School drop-out and homelessness that arise due to bullying, harassment, and family rejection are harmful not only to individual LGBT youth, but also have societal consequences in that they reduce the capacity of these youth to contribute to the economy as adults.
- In addition, school-based harassment and family rejection can increase costs to the state via Medicaid expenditures, incarceration, and lost wages. The Jim Casey Foundation has estimated that homelessness, juvenile justice involvement, and poor educational and employment outcomes cost nearly $8 billion per cohort that ages out of foster care each year in the U.S. The best available data suggest that LGBT youth make up one-fifth, if not more, of each annual aging out cohort.
Health disparities for LGBT people negatively impact the economy.
- A more supportive legal landscape and social climate for LGBT people in Michigan is likely to reduce health disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT people, which would increase worker productivity and reduce health care costs.
- We estimate that reducing the disparity in major depressive disorder between LGBT and non-LGBT people in Michigan by 25% to 33.3% could benefit the state’s economy by $122.5 million to$163.9 million, and reducing the disparity in current smoking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $107.9 million to $143.8 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year. To the extent that a more supportive legal landscape would reduce other health disparities, the state’s economy would benefit even more.