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  • Victoria A. Brownworth

New Data Shows LGBTQ Adults Face Twice as Much Hunger as Non-LGBTQ Peers

August 18, 2021 Philadelphia Gay News

LGBT adults living in the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to experience food insecurity as non-LGBT adults, according to new survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Household Pulse Survey (HPS), a population survey sponsored by the Census Bureau, provides data on American households during the coronavirus pandemic. The Census Bureau said the most recent survey was the first time in the agency’s history that one of its sponsored surveys included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Previous surveys had asked only for a respondent’s sex.

The Census Bureau sent invitations to 1,042,642 households and received a total of 64,562 responses. The new data, collected from households between July 21 and Aug. 2, found over 13% of LGBT adults reported living in a household that experienced food insecurity in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBT adults.

The survey also replicated data on economic insecurity from other recent studies like that conducted by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) which PGN reported on earlier this year.

The HPS found 36.6% of LGBT adults lived in a household that had difficulty paying for basic household expenses in the previous seven days, compared to just over a quarter of non-LGBT adults. Unemployment was also higher: one in five LGBT adults lived in a household that had lost employment income in the past four weeks, compared to 16.8% of non-LGBT adults.

Among those living in homes that were rented or owned with a mortgage or loan, 8.2% of LGBT adults said they were not at all confident that their household will be able to make their next housing payment on time, compared to 6.0% of non-LGBT adults.

In a statement, Jay Brown, senior vice president for programs, research and training at the Human Rights Campaign, said the Census Bureau’s findings “highlight what we have long known — LGBTQ+ Americans disproportionately bear the brunt of economic hardships, from food insecurity to unemployment.”

The significance of the changes made in questions was key to securing this new data. Initially the HPS asked respondents for their sex (male or female). But this most recent version of the HPS changed the sex question and added others.

The first question asks, “What sex were you assigned at birth on your original birth certificate?”

The choice of answers is male or female. But the following question asks about current gender self-identification: “Do you currently describe yourself as male, female or transgender?”

The choice of answers is male, female, transgender or none of these.

Also added to the HPS are queries about sexual orientation. “Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?”

The options are: gay or lesbian; straight — that is not gay or lesbian; bisexual; something else; I don’t know.

The HPS underscores the impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ people and also how people of color are disproportionately affected.

As PGN reported last month, a new research brief, authored by the What We Know Project at Cornell University, discovered overwhelming consensus among peer-reviewed and other studies that “discrimination inflicts profoundly greater harm on LGBTQ people of color in a wide range of areas.” LGBTQ people of color experienced “grossly disproportionate rates of discrimination over the past year,” including greater economic and food insecurity.

Key to all Census Bureau data is what services LGBTQ people can access from the results of this data. As PGN reported, food insecurity during the pandemic has been rife among LGBTQ Philadelphians and those in the near suburbs. Broadening access to food stamps/SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs) and food banks is critical for LGBTQ people. The HPS survey is sent to about one million households every two weeks, and data releases will continue every two weeks until October 11. The HPS is sent to about one million households every two weeks. If selected, prospective respondents will receive an email from or a text message from 39242. Additional information is available on the HPS respondent website.

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