LGBT Women Among Most at Risk of Poverty in America, New Study

LGBT Women Among Most at Risk of Poverty in America, New Study

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Groundbreaking report from broad coalition examines poverty, economic vulnerability of LGBT women
Almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 21 percent of heterosexual women.
Almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 21 percent of heterosexual women.

According to a new report released Thursday by a broad coalition of research and advocacy organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women are among the most at risk of poverty in America. Due to discriminatory laws, America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence. Anti-LGBT laws, together with inequitable and outdated policies, mean that LGBT women’s economic security is compromised by reduced incomes and added costs ranging from healthcare to housing.

Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America, a companion to the recently released report, Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America, was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), in partnership with 9to5, A Better Balance, Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, Family Values @ Work, Forward Together, Legal Momentum, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Education Association, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Re:Gender, Transgender Law Center, and UltraViolet.

Among the report’s major findings:

LGBT Women Diverse, Raising Children

“LGBT women face added challenges not solely because of their gender, but also because of who they are and whom they love. Discrimination and stigma, combined with the struggles faced by all women, make LGBT women and their families especially vulnerable,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP. “Making matters worse, the burden falls most acutely on those who can least afford it: LGBT women raising children, older LGBT women, LGBT women of color, LGBT immigrants, and those LGBT women and families who are already living near or below the poverty line.”

  • 4.1 percent of U.S. adult women identify as LGBT. There are an estimated 5.1 million LGBT adult women in the United States including approximately 350,000 transgender women. Of adults ages 18-44, 6.7 percent of women identify as LGBT compared to 4.5 percent of men. Two-thirds of LGB women identify as bisexual.
  • Large numbers of LGBT women are raising children. A Gallup survey found nearly half (48 percent) of LGBT women under 50 years of age were raising children, with higher rates of childrearing for African American, Hispanic and Asian LGBT women compared to white LGBT women. Also, more than half of transgender women surveyed in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the largest survey of transgender people to date, were parents (52 percent).
  • LGBT women are diverse. People of color are more likely to identify as LGBT than are white people. According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 4.6 percent of African Americans identified as LGBT, as did 4.0 percent of Hispanics and 4.3 percent of Asian Americans. The comparable figure for white respondents was 3.2 percent.
LGBT Women More Likely to Live in Poverty
  • LGBT women are more likely to live in poverty. Almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 21 percent of heterosexual women. Only 29 percent of LGBT women say they are thriving financially compared to 39 percent of non-LGBT women. Transgender women are nearly four times as likely to have year incomes of $10,000 or less compared to the general population.
  • LGBT women of color, older LGBT women and LGBT women raising children are particularly vulnerable. African American and Latina women in same-sex couples are three and two times more likely, respectively, to be poor than white women in same-sex couples. Older women (ages 65 and above) in same-sex couples have nearly twice the poverty rate of older married opposite-sex couples. Fifteen percent of female same-sex couples raising children are in poverty, compared to 9 percent of married opposite-sex couples with children.
LGBT Women Confront Burdens from Stigma and Discrimination

The economic disparities experienced by LGBT women result from the stigma, the discrimination and the legal disadvantages they experience because they are women and because they are LGBT. Paying an Unfair Price: LGBT Women Left the Most Vulnerable spotlights how LGBT women face unique challenges in three major areas that dramatically increase economic insecurity and poverty rates:

JOBS: LGBT women struggle to find and keep good jobs. LGBT women face discrimination when looking for work and while on the job. The result is lower pay and fewer opportunities to advance. Workplaces also may be unwelcoming, hostile, or even physically unsafe. Transgender women face added challenges because they often cannot obtain accurate identity documents necessary for work.

HEALTH: LGBT women face challenges to good health that impact economic security. Health care can be more costly for LGBT women because of discriminatory laws, discrimination by providers, insurance exclusions for transgender people, and inadequate reproductive health coverage. The result: LGBT women are at greater risk for health problems that can affect quality of life and threaten their ability to work, and they often must pay higher costs for healthcare.

FAMILY RECOGNITION: Lack of support for LGBT women and their families results in higher costs. In many states, LGBT women still are not able to legally marry their partner or establish legal ties to their children. This means LGBT women may not be able to access affordable health insurance, safety net programs meant to keep families out of poverty, and job-protected leave to care for a sick partner. What’s more, like all women in the United States, LGBT women often are forced by law to make difficult and costly choices that can threaten their family’s economic security. The United States, for example, is the only developed country that does not offer paid parental leave.

“Even at a time when the public is showing increased understanding and acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships, the unique concerns and struggles of LGBT women are largely absent in the national conversation, said Laura E. Durso, Director LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress at CAP. “Women who are LGBT have the same concerns as other women, but they face added challenges and worries not just because of their gender, but also because of who they are and whom they love.”

“Change is needed to improve economic security for all women – including LGBT women. Laws prohibiting discrimination against women need to be strengthened and expanded to include LGBT people,” said Linda Meric, National Executive Director of 9to5. “Policymakers should update programs designed to support families to allow LGBT families to access the same protections and benefits available to others, such as health insurance, family leave, and childcare assistance.”

The report is available online at lgbtmap.org/unfair-price-lgbt-women.

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