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Queer Town

Queer Folks More Likely To Be Poor, Except in California

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Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM

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Think queer folks have fat bank accounts and all kinds of disposable cash? Think again.

Throughout the country, according to UCLA's gay think tank, the Williams Institute, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are more likely to be poor than straight people.

California's gay residents, though, are less likely to be living in poverty than their straight counterparts. In a new report, the William Institute releases some very revealing statistics.

The Williams Institute tapped into data from the California Health Interview Survey and found that 8.4 percent of gay men in California are poor compared to 13.7 percent of heterosexual men. Additionally, 8.1 percent of lesbians are poor compared to 16.8 percent of heterosexual women.

Same-sex couples in California are also less likely than straight married couples to be poor.

The Williams Institute says more research is needed, but theorizes that "these lower poverty levels could be related to greater acceptance of LGB people and same-sex couples in California, less discrimination in family policy and employment, and a more supportive social climate."

Makes sense, especially when you consider that California offers many of the strongest legal protections for LGBTs anywhere in the country -- except legal marriage, of course.

It's not such a rosy picture for queer folks outside of California, and the Williams Institute offers these bullet points:

-- African American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of straight married African Americans.

-- One third of lesbian couples and 20.1 percent of gay male couples without a high school diploma are in poverty, compared to 18.8 percent of straight married couples.

-- Almost one in four 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.

-- African American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3 perent) of any children in any household type.

-- 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of straight married couples.

-- Also, 2.2 percent of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance compared to .8 percent of straight women who are in a relationship

-- 1.2 percent of men in same-sex couples, compared to .6 percent of straight men in a relationship, receive cash assistance.

Also, there's a clear difference in poverty rates between queer folks who live in a large city and those who don't.

-- Lesbian couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor (14.1 percent) compared to 4.5 percent of coupled lesbians in large cities.

-- 10.2 percent of men in same-sex couples, who live in small metropolitan areas, are poor, compared with only 3.3 percent of coupled gay men in large metropolitan areas.

Maybe it's the gay male couples who live in large cities that have people thinking we've got all the cash.

But it's plain to see that we don't, and tons of work needs to be done to address the issue. Congress and President Barack Obama, for example, have yet to pass a federal law that protects all queer Americans from being fired only because of one's sexual orientation. That would be one major step in creating better financial equality in the United States.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.

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