Although prior research has documented rates of poverty among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and shown evidence of economic disparities for LGBT people, most studies on the topic have not been able to fully describe the entire LGBT community across the United States. Many past studies used data that do not allow for the identification of transgender people or people not living in same-sex couples. This study, which is the first in a series of reports based on the Pathways to Justice Project, addresses earlier shortcomings of the research on poverty to provide a new lens on one of the most important measures of economic security—living on very low incomes. In particular, this new research on LGBT poverty comes from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, which has asked questions about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) since 2014. This report covers self-identified lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people (of various sexual orientations) in 35 states from 2014 to 2017. The focus of the full report is answering the following questions about LGBT poverty:
- Do poverty rates differ by SOGI? How do these differences look across various demographic characteristics?
- Do LGBT and cisgender (cis) straight people differ in ways that affect poverty?
- Accounting for other known factors related to poverty, do LGBT people still experience higher rates of poverty compared to cisgender straight people?
- Poverty rates differ by SOGI. We examined poverty rates separately for cisgender straight men and women, cisgender gay men and lesbian women, cisgender bisexual men and women, and transgender people.
- LGBT people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6%, which is much higher than the rate for cisgender straight people of 15.7%.
- Among LGBT people, transgender people have especially high rates of poverty—29.4%.
- Lesbian (17.9%) and straight (17.8%) cisgender women have higher poverty rates than gay (12.1%) and straight (13.4%) cisgender men. But cisgender lesbian women do not have significantly different poverty rates than cisgender straight women.
- Bisexual cisgender women (29.4%) and men (19.5%) had higher poverty rates than cisgender straight women and men, respectively.