This report from the Williams Institute documents the levels of poverty among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Americans.  A severe global recession has brought heightened attention to poverty in the United States as the poverty rate rose over time, leveling off at 15.0% in 2011. Recent U.S. Census Bureau data demonstrates the persistence of higher poverty rates for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, children, single mothers, people with disabilities, and other groups, for example. An earlier Williams Institute study and other research showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people were also more vulnerable to being poor, and this study updates and extends that earlier report.

This study draws on recent data from four datasets to estimate recent poverty rates for LGB people in all walks of life: same-sex couples (2010 American Community Survey), LGB people aged 18-44 (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth), LGB adults in California (2007- 2009 California Health Interview Survey) and single LGBT-identified adults (2012 Gallup Daily Tracking Poll).

The LGB poverty data help to debunk the persistent stereotype of the affluent gay man or lesbian. Instead, the poverty data are consistent with the view that LGB people continue to face economic challenges that affect their income and life chances, such as susceptibility to employment discrimination, higher rates of being uninsured, and a lack of access to various tax and other financial benefits via exclusion from the right to marry.

Among some of the findings in this report:

  • African Americans in same-sex couples have poverty rates at least twice the rate for different-sex married African Americans. African American men in same-sex couples are more than six times more likely to be poor than White men in same-sex couples, and African American women with female partners are three times more likely to be poor than are White women with female partners. The difference in poverty rates for black and white couples is disproportionately higher in same-sex compared to different-sex couples.
  • Poverty rates for women in same-sex couples are higher than married couples’ rates in the central part of the United States, in New England, and outside of large metropolitan areas.
  • Poverty rates for men in same-sex couples are much lower in large metropolitan areas than rates for married different-sex couples.
  • Low levels of education tend to increase poverty more for women in same-sex couples than for men.
  • Women in same-sex couples are more likely to be among the “working poor,” with higher poverty rates than for men in same-sex couples or different-sex married couples.
  • Women in same-sex couples who have a disability are more likely to be poor.

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