Why should LGBTQ people care about the economy?

We’ve been in an economic downturn since the Bush Administration. Almost everyone knows someone who is unemployed, underemployed, fears losing their job or maybe you yourself are unemployed. Nationally the unemployment rate for Caucasians is 8%, African-Americans 15.3%, Latinos 11.6% and Asians 6.8%. (United States Department of Labor, February, 2011)

On the state level Washington’s unemployment rate is 9.2% (December 2010) and that doesn’t include discouraged workers (individuals who have given up searching for work) and the underemployed (individuals who can only find part-time work or have had a reduction in hours). (United States Department of Labor)

When you think about it, a 9.2% unemployment rate is almost the entire LGBTQ population in Washington State. Now that’s scary!

But seriously, how does the unemployment rate in Washington State and the economic recession affect LGBTQ individuals? Well, unfortunately that’s difficult to answer. We’ve been living in a society that barely acknowledges the existence of LGBTQ individuals and there just isn’t a lot of free flowing data out there about us. In fact, in 2010, under the Obama Administration, was the first time the US Census Bureau tracked same-sex couples. Of course, that means that perhaps the majority of us weren’t identified at all …  but it’s a start. (Williams Institute’s Report: ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bias in the Workplace.’)

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law did a report called “Poverty in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community” and they found through The National Survey of Family Growth that 24% of lesbian and bisexual women between the ages of 18-44 are living in poverty compared to 19% of heterosexual women.

“The researchers also specifically examined poverty rates among those living in family units. The Williams Institute used data from the 2000 Census to calculate poverty statistics for LGB same-sex couples that live together and identify themselves as unmarried partners. The study found that 6.9 percent of lesbian couples, 4.0 percent of gay male couples, and 5.4 percent of married heterosexual couples are living below the federal poverty line. The poverty rate for families with children is 9.4 percent for lesbian families, 5.5 percent for gay male families, and 6.7 percent for heterosexual married families. The poverty rate for lesbian couples 65 years of age and older is particularly high, with 9.1 percent living below the poverty line compared to 4.9 percent for gay male couples 65 or older and 4.6 percent for heterosexual married couples 65 and older.”

The Williams Project found in California, 69% of same-sex parents are women. A joint study by Our Family Coalition, San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center and Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere (2007) found that couples raising children are more likely to be people of color with a median household income of 17% lower than the income of married couples with children. (Breaking News in Diversity)

In addition, women, on average, earn 78 cents for every man’s dollar but gay men earn 10% to 32% less than their heterosexual male counterparts.

At the Transgender Law Center in California 70% of transgender individuals reported experiencing discrimination at their workplace due to their gender identity and over half reported “some loss of employment either as a direct or possible result of their gender identity.” (“Poverty in the LGBT Community” by Center for American Progress, 2009)

Had enough statistics? Well one thing is for sure, during an economic recession the most vulnerable workers are the most affected. LGBTQ individuals are a vulnerable workforce, especially LGBTQ individuals of color.

Many LGBTQ organizations are working on legislation that will prevent workplace discrimination like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and marriage equality which can provide tax perks, health care, social security benefits, inheritance and property protection and even access to some social services.

Allyship supports this work but believes that supporting a more comprehensive approach to economic stimulation will benefit not only LGBTQ workers but all workers.

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