Myth-busting study released

The COLAGE News Blog passes on the news that the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law recently released a report showing that LGB Americans are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts.

The study, “Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community, “ [opens PDF file], was released last week, and reported on in national media including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Highlights include the following findings:

  • •  After comparing families with similar characteristics, gay and lesbian couple families are significantly more likely to be poor than are heterosexual married couple families; 
  • •  In general, lesbian couples have much higher poverty rates than either different-sex couples or gay male couples; 
  • •  African-Americans in same-sex couples have poverty rates that are significantly higher than black people in different-sex married couples; 
  • •  People in same-sex couples who live in rural areas have poverty rates that are twice as high as same-sex couples who live in large metropolitan areas; 
  • •  Employment discrimination, lack of access to marriage, and a greater likelihood of being uninsured exacerbate poverty among LGB people.
  • •  One in five children being raised by same-sex couples in the United States lives in poverty.

The thing about not having a male income in the family lowering the family’s income?  A lot of us lesbian gals coulda told any researcher that one.  But some other really important findings wouldn’t have been as obvious to me.  The whole picture painted by the report is very important, and one I hope that draws the attention of activists and politicians across various lines of political affiliation.

The report is described as the first of its kind, but local folks might remember that in October of 2007, Our Family Coalition released a report, “Our Families: Attributes of Bay Area LGBTQ Families,” that essentially came up with similar findings. (Here’s my LD post on its release.)  At least so it seems to me, on first gloss.  One glaringly obvious point is that equal access to the fiscal benefits of marriage would have a material impact on these families.

3 Responses to Myth-busting study released

  1. wyliekat March 24, 2009 at #

    To be honest, I’d worry that the religious right would use this as an excuse to prevent lesbian couples from adopting.

    • Lesbian Dad March 24, 2009 at #

      As if they need one more excuse.

      I know what it’s like to do a second parent adoption at least (checkered NGLTF map of who else can), and there’s already a ton of stuff in place to determine whether the home is “adequate” (including home visit by social worker to see the place the kid has already been thriving in since birth, etc.; affidavits by others as to one’s capacities as parent; “enough” income to provide for the kid is included, for sure — I think we even had to submit tax returns? or at least list our annual combined income? that part worried me, since it is under that considered necessary or optimum — for middle class people, at least — to raise kids in the Bay Area).

      Anyway, folks who know more about the politics of adoptions could probably speak to this more, but I suspect that where it’s even possible for LGBT people to adopt, income-based bias already pertains, and that anything that might compound this (like the fact that the parents are same-sex or that a single parent is lesbian or gay) is already a demonstrable strain.

      That said, I think you’re right: it would be perfectly like the religious right’s machine-like opposition to gay people that they would use this study against us. And I would also hope that advocates of greater family protections and more civil rights would be able to use a venal attack like this (were it to happen) to argue the justness of broader supports. I would hope that if low income people began to be discriminated against in a whole new way, that organizers and activists and people of conscience would step up. While there hasn’t been much support for class-conscious organizing in the Regan-Bush/Bush years, the rise of populist anger we’re seeing now might revive something. Who has the stomach for attacking the “have-nots” when the unchecked greed of a bunch of the “haves” has driven the economy over the cliff? I’m hoping fewer and fewer.

  2. wyliekat March 25, 2009 at #

    I think that there’s an accepted wisdom (though I do so loathe to refer to it in this way) that says there must always be poor, just as there must always be rich – at least that’s the case in our current economic and political structure.

    And most people don’t really care who’s at the bottom of the barrel, so long as it’s not them. It’s the same old NIMBY refrain, over and over again.

    Maybe it’s too much to expect that humanity will overcome the greed and tendency towards lack of empathy that are inherent in our nature?

    But you’re quite right – if a study like this opens up the potential for support of LGBT rights in new areas (like anti-poverty activism) that may be a good thing. Allies are always helpful.

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