5 Things You Should Know About The Williams Institute Report on Poverty in the LGBTQ+ Community

By Isabel Corp

In October 2019, UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy released a report about the impact of homelessness and poverty on LGBTQ+ folks in the US. While there has been prior research on the rates of poverty among LGBTQ+ folks, this is the first that has looked more deeply at economic disparities for LGBTQ+ people and sought to include specific data for transgender people and people not living in same-sex couples. 

Understanding how and why being LGBTQ+ seems to increase the risk of poverty overall, and what members of our community are even more at risk, can help us begin to address and improve the systems that currently pose obstacles to these folks. In an effort to break down this data, we’ve compiled the five key takeaways from the Williams Institute’s latest report:

  1. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience poverty than non-LGBTQ+  individuals. According to the report, 21.6% of LGBTQ+ people are living in poverty, compared to 15.7% of non-LGBTQ+ people. 
  1. There are significant differences in poverty among LGBTQ+ people. The report found that trans people experience poverty at a significantly higher rate than LGB people (29.4%, compared to 12.1% for cis-gay men and 17.9% for cis-lesbian women), especially in rural areas. The report also concluded that bisexual women are the most vulnerable to homelessness and poverty out of LGB people collectively, with 29.4% of cis-bisexual women living in poverty compared to 19.5% of cis-bisexual men.  
  1. People of color are affected at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. While 15.4% of white LGBTQ+ people are living in poverty, 30.8% of black LGBTQ+ people are—pointing to a significant difference in poverty rates by race. Latinx people experience the highest rate of poverty at 37.3%. 
  1. Younger LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be living below the poverty line than their older counterparts. The poverty rate for LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 18 and 24 is 30.7% and appears to decline the older one gets, with the rate for LGBTQ+ people aged 65+ falling at 9.8%.
  1. LGBTQ+ people experience poverty at a higher rate in rural areas than in urban areas. Finally, the report took a look at poverty by geography and found that while poverty rates for LGBTQ+ people are higher than non-LGBTQ+ people in both rural and urban settings, 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people in urban areas are living in poverty compared to 1 in 4 living in poverty in rural areas. 

In short, where people live and how they identify matters. The Williams Institute report shows us that simply being LGBTQ+ increases one’s risk of poverty, and that differences in poverty rates exist across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. 

Much of what the Williams Institute report revealed informs the work that Family Equality does on a daily basis. While we know that becoming a parent is expensive regardless of who you are and who you love, for LGBTQ+ folks, that cost increases significantly because of the added costs of adoption, foster care, or assisted reproductive technology.

Family Equality’s most recent report, “Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood” takes a look at the intersection of the relatively high costs of family-building for LGBTQ+ people and the disproportionally high rates of poverty experienced by these communities—and found that regardless of income level, the desire to start and build families among LGBTQ+ people is relatively consistent.