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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 09
Why a $15/hour minimum wage matters to LGBT workers
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Why a $15/hour minimum wage matters to LGBT workers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A new study from the Williams Institute reveals that more than one in four LGBT Americans have experienced a time in the past year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves.

According to the study, 29% of LGBT respondents said that at least once they lacked the money to buy food, compared to only 15% of straight respondents. About 21% of the LGBT respondents said they received benefits from SNAP -the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as 'Food Stamps.'

Thirteen percent of same-sex couples and 26% of same-sex couples with children under 18 said they received SNAP benefits last year. A whopping 43% of LGB single parents said they relied on SNAP for their food requirements.

The Williams Institute food security study was compiled from data generated by three different national surveys that included 'measures of LGBT identity or being part of a same-sex couple along with measures of food insecurity or participation in SNAP.'

'LGBT communities and those in same-sex couples, particularly those raising children, experience disproportionate levels of food insecurity and higher participation rates in SNAP,' the study concluded.

'This elevated risk of food insecurity and participation in SNAP remains even when possible differences in demographic characteristics between LGBT and non-LGBT individuals like gender, age, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment are taken into account.'

Williams Institute also found that there are significant divisions within the different categories of the LGBT community as a whole.

For example, about 25% of Bisexuals receive SNAP benefits, compared to 14% of Gay and Lesbian people. Seventeen percent of Lesbian couples rely on SNAP, compared to 10% of Gay couples, and 9% of opposite-sex couples.

There are also disparities identifiable by race. Thirty-seven percent of LGBT African-American adults, 55% of LGBT Native Americans, and 78% of LGBT Native Hawaiians rely on SNAP assistance for their food needs.

Previous Williams Institute studies have shown that LGBT workers earn less and are unemployed more than straight workers in the same occupations, which may account for their greater reliance on SNAP and other forms of government assistance.

Gay and Bisexual men, for example, might earn as little as 68 cents for every dollar that a straight male worker earns. Williams Institute did not discover significant disparities between Lesbian workers and straight women, but women as a whole earn less and are unemployed more than men in the same occupations.

While LGBT workers can be found in every industry, there are concentrations of LGBT employees in typically low-wage jobs in retail, hospitality and food service, and other kinds of service occupations.

LGBT workers also experienced significantly more unfair or discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Twenty-one percent of LGB workers and 47% of Trans or gender non-conforming workers report being 'treated unfairly or discriminated against in hiring, pay, or promotions.'

When the Williams Institute examined formal complaints about workplace discrimination, they found that LGBT workers showed about the same rate as women, and people of color. Some 4.7% of LGBT workers filed discrimination complaints, compared with 5.4% of women, and 6.5% of people of color.

Founded in 2001 with a donation by Charles 'Chuck' Williams, the Williams Institute is attached to UCLA Law School. The institute researches economic disparities affecting the LGBT community, and issues of law relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

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