LGBT Americans are more likely to live in poverty than straight Americans, according to a new report from the Williams Institute, a University of California Los Angeles think-tank.
Using Gallup data, researchers found one in five LGBT people who live alone report an income less than or at the poverty level.
NBC News interviewed lead researcher M.V. Lee Badgett.
"This 'myth of gay affluence' has been around for a long time. It gets in the way of people even imagining that LGBT people can be poor,” Badgett told senior producer Barbara Raab.
Women in same-sex relationships have a poverty rate of 7.6 percent compared to 5.7 percent for women in different-sex couples.
“For gay men, it's a little more complicated a story, and race plays a big part,” Badgett said. African American gay men are six times more likely to live in poverty than white gay men.
Children generally have higher rates of poverty than adults, and children of LGBT parents are especially vulnerable. Badgett told NBC News that children of gay couples are twice as likely to live in poverty due to access to fair employment and federal benefits.
“The issue of kids comes up all the time, and 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,” Badgett said. “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 said the Census Bureau doesn’t ask questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The findings also suggest that there are other kinds of things to prevent poverty that need to be addressed,” she told NBC. “For instance, we don’t have any protection against discrimination against LGBT people at the federal level. Only 21 states outlaw discrimination for sexual orientation and 16 states for gender identity. People who lose jobs because of discrimination are very likely to run into problems with poverty. If they don’t have incomes, they will be a whole lot poorer. So, nondiscrimination laws are very important.”