Left Out? Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Poverty in the U.S.
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This paper analyzes the risk of poverty for self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people from mid-2013 through 2016 in the National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative survey of households that includes a sexual orientation question based on identity (n = 112,143). The study tests the role of family structure—living with a spouse or partner and having children—on the risk of poverty for LGB and heterosexual respondents. After controlling for education, demographic, and health measures in a probit model, lesbians and gay men are as likely to be poor as similar heterosexuals, but bisexual women and men are significantly more likely to be poor, regardless of relationship status. Single and childless gay men are also more likely to be poor than single heterosexual men. Being in a relationship reduces the likelihood of poverty for people of all sexual orientations, but the data show evidence of a gender composition effect: married male same-sex couples are less likely and unmarried female same-sex couples more likely to be poor than their married counterparts. Marriage reduces gay men’s poverty risk more and children increase their poverty risk less than for heterosexual men.
KeywordsPoverty Family Gender Children Sexual orientation Lesbian Gay Bisexual
The author thanks the Williams Institute at UCLA for financial support, Dr. Sam Abariga for his excellent research assistance, and anonymous referees for suggestions. The author thanks Gary Gates, Bianca Wilson, Alyssa Schneebaum, Christopher Carpenter, Marieka Klawitter, and Brad Sears for their feedback and the audiences at Colorado State University, the University of Minnesota, and Mathematica for comments and suggestions.
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