Poverty rates among all Americans have increased during the current recession, but people in our country’s lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) communities are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a new study co-authored by M.V. Lee Badgett, professor of Economics and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration.
The report, “New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community,” shows that women, children and African-Americans are particularly vulnerable. For example, the poverty rate among African-American same-sex couples is more than twice the rate of different-sex married African-Americans.
This results in dramatic poverty among the children of African-American same-sex couples: 52.3 percent of African-American children in gay male households live in poverty — the highest poverty rate of any children in any household type. Even among all LGB couples, children of any race are more likely to be poor than their peers in different-sex households: Nearly 25 percent of children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent of children living with married different-sex couples.
“It’s always shocking to me to see these figures for kids, and the higher poverty rates for the households that have kids,” said Badgett during an NBC interview. “We do worry that it will be seen that same-sex couples aren’t good parents, aren’t fit parents, or that African-American same-sex couples aren’t good parents or fit parents. The economic situations that people find themselves in don’t reflect their fitness at being parents. It just reflects how hard it is for them to raise their kids and shows there’s a need for support, including the right to marry and to strengthen their family’s economic situation or to make it more secure by being able to tap into all the benefits that come with marriage.”
Badgett published the report through the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, where she serves as research director. She and co-authors Laura Durso and Alyssa Schneebaum, a doctoral candidate in Economics, used data from four sources — the 2010 American Community Survey; the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth; the 2007-2009 California Health Interview Survey; and a 2012 Gallup Daily Tracking Poll — to estimate poverty rates during the second half of last decade for different groups within the LGB population.
In addition to the dramatic poverty figures for children growing up in same-sex households, the researchers found that lesbian couples are far more likely to get food stamps than are either gay male or married heterosexual couples: 14.1 percent of lesbian couples receive that form of government assistance, compared with 7.7 percent of gay male couples and 6.5 percent of different-sex married couples.
The new study has received media attention across the United States, including interviews on NBC and NPR, and a Slate article.