LGBT Women Are Among Most at Risk of Poverty in America

Groundbreaking report from broad coalition examines poverty and economic vulnerability of LGBT women.

Posted by Melanie Nathan, March 13, 2015

Poverty has a woman's faceWashington, D.C.  According to a new report released by a broad coalition of research and advocacy organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, women are among the most at risk of poverty in America. Due to discriminatory laws, America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence. Anti-LGBT laws, together with inequitable and outdated policies, mean that LGBT women’s economic security is compromised by reduced incomes and added costs ranging from health care to housing.

“Even at a time when the public is showing increased understanding and acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships, the unique concerns and struggles of LGBT women are largely absent in the national conversation,” said Laura E. Durso, Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

“LGBT women face added challenges not solely because of their gender, but also because of who they are and whom they love. Discrimination and stigma, combined with the struggles faced by all women, make LGBT women and their families especially vulnerable,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “Making matters worse, the burden falls most acutely on those who can least afford it: LGBT women raising children, older LGBT women, LGBT women of color, LGBT immigrants, and those LGBT women and families who are already living near or below the poverty line.”

“Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America,” a companion to the recently released report “Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America,” was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, or MAP, and the Center for American Progress.

Among the report’s findings are:

1) LGBT women are more likely to live in poverty.

  • Almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 21 percent of heterosexual women. Only 29 percent of LGBT women say that they are thriving financially compared with 39 percent of non-LGBT women. Transgender women are nearly four times more likely to have annual incomes of $10,000 or less compared to the general population.
  • LGBT women of color, older LGBT women, and LGBT women raising children are particularly vulnerable. African American and Latina women in same-sex couples are three and two times more likely, respectively, to be poor than white women in same-sex couples. Older women, ages 65 and above, in same-sex couples have nearly twice the poverty rate of older, married opposite-sex couples. Fifteen percent of female same-sex couples raising children are in poverty compared with 9 percent of married opposite-sex couples with children.

2) LGBT women confront burdens from stigma and discrimination.

The economic disparities experienced by LGBT women result from the stigma, the discrimination, and the legal disadvantages they experience because they are women and because they are LGBT. “Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America”spotlights how LGBT women face unique challenges in three major areas that dramatically increase economic insecurity and poverty rates:

  •  LGBT women struggle to find and keep good jobs. LGBT women face discrimination when looking for work and while on the job. The result is lower pay and fewer opportunities to advance. Workplaces also may be unwelcoming, hostile, or even physically unsafe. Transgender women face added challenges because they often cannot obtain accurate identity documents necessary for work.
  • LGBT women face challenges to good health that affect economic security. Health care can be more costly for LGBT women because of discriminatory laws, discrimination by providers, insurance exclusions for transgender people, and inadequate reproductive health coverage. The result is that LGBT women are at greater risk for health problems that can affect quality of life and threaten their ability to work.
  • Lack of support for LGBT women and their families results in higher costs. In many states, LGBT women still are not able to legally marry their partner or establish legal ties to their children. This means LGBT women may not be able to access affordable health insurance, safety net programs meant to keep families out of poverty, and job-protected leave to care for a sick partner. What’s more, similar to all women in the United States, LGBT women often are forced by law to make difficult and costly choices that can threaten their family’s economic security. The United States, for example, is the only developed country that does not offer paid parental leave.

The report was created in partnership with 9to5, A Better Balance, Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, Family Values @ Work, Forward Together, Legal Momentum, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Education Association, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Re:Gender, Transgender Law Center, and UltraViolet.


The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

4 thoughts on “LGBT Women Are Among Most at Risk of Poverty in America

  1. I am surprised. SEN Elizabeth Warren’s book, “The Two Income Trap” shows the direct link between two-income families and poverty, and the even higher link between poverty and having kids.

    The only thing that makes sense is Lesbian or Bi-sexual women leaving terrible marriages with their children and being stuck in that rut of poverty that my mother was stuck in with 2 children and no support. She put herself through Nursing school, working evenings and weekends, taking care of us, and doing not much else.

    1. P.S. – Yes, the link between same-sex marraige and a lack of benefits in those hold-out states is definitely a causal connection which I do not think that SEN Warren delved into, at that time. I’m glad we’ve come to the point where our conerns ARE cause for study and that past discrimination can be corrected.

      God haste the day that Social Security will finally recognize the divorcee rights of gay and lesbian couples who were with each other for more than 10 years, but otherwise unable to marry due to bigotry, or survivor rights when the “other half of the couple” raises the child of their deceased partner.

      I just had a Soldier in here who was in that VERY position: his mother died on active duty, when he was 16 years old, and her partner certainly raised the late Soldier’s three children (the natural birth father was a non-issue). At that time, the surviving partner did NOT receive her own social security as a survivor taking care of “their” children. Two-parent adoptions also will need to be addressed.

  2. Reblogged this on Fairy JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    This report highlights the income inequality faced by many LGBTQ women. While I don’t see specific mention of trans women m their is little doubt they are at high risk for poverty, particularly trans women of color…

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