LGBTQ+ Unemployment During COVID-19

Although the US Census Bureau only began their official acknowledgement of same-sex couples in their “Current Population Survey” in 2019, the process of gathering data began in May 2015. Throughout the recent years of studying unemployment amongst the entirety of the American population, an obvious disparity between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples appeared on their poll numbers. After averaging the 5 years of polling together, it was found that the unemployment rate amongst hetereosexual households was only 2.93% in comparison to the 3.09% of LGBTQ couples that claimed unemployment. Although the difference in numbers may seem small, in the context of a population as large as the US, .2% can mean hundreds of thousands of people. It has long been known that women and people of color experience such disparities, but the appearance of the LGBTQ+ population on the map of income inferiority came as no surprise to many. In addition, the survey data shows that same-sex couples are more likely to recieve Supplemental Nutrition Assiastance Progam (SNAP) assistance in addition to aid from various other governmental programs. In short, the LGBTQ+ community experiences higher unemployment rates and, therefore, higher poverty rates than their heterosexual counterparts.


As one can expect, the recent health crisis has hit everyone hard, but especially the LGBTQ+ community. As discussed in a previous article, LGBTQ+ youth make up a drastic proportion of the homeless population in the United States which already proves that poverty plagues the community to no fault of their own. On top of such, unemployment rates have only increased due to the virus, and have increased at a greater rate than unemployment rates for hetersexual identitifying people. In order to highlight such inconsistencies in our workplaces, the national LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and PSB research have recently conducted a poll to measure the variation between the homo and heterosexual COVID 19 experience. The report, which included 4,000 participants, found that 17% of LGBTQ people had claimed to be unemployed. This number deeply diverges from the 13% of heterosexual people that claimed unemployment. In an even greater display of disparity, 22% of those LGBTQ surveryed claimed that they had lost their jobs due to COVID 19 in comparison to the 14% of straight people in the survey. In addition, 42% of LGBTQ participants claimed that their economic situation was incrementally worse than it was a year ago in comparison to the 36% of straight participants. According to NBC, another survey found that 1 in 3 LGBTQ workers had their hours reduced in contrast to the 1 in 5 of heterosexual people that experienced the same treatment. As a result, LGBTQ people are finding home security even harder to obtain as requests for extended rents have skyrocketed to 11% for the LGBTQ community which is inconsistent with the 8% of straight people that insisted upon extended periods in order to garner enough money to pay their rent.


Not only are LGBTQ people out of work, they do not have the same access to safety nets as the straight population. According to NBC only 29% of LGBTQ respondents in a recent Paid Leave survey claimed to have access to paid leave. In contrast, 76% of heterosexual people insisted that they had easy access to paid leave in the situation that they would require such aid.


It is important to note that this only applies to LGBTQ+ people as a whole. It is almost impossible to find accurate data on the specific subsections of the community, such as black queer people, latinx queer people, or Native American queer people. However, with unemployment trends in this country and data pre-Covid, one may assume that the economic disparity hurts the minority populations within the queer community even worse. Likewise, using the plurality of LGBTQ+ is somewhat misleading in the case of unemployment numbers, as there is a large differential between gay and lesbian unemployment and trans unemployment. This country has a trans unemployment problem, as evident in the numbers. Though there is very little post-Covid data available, pre-Covid data shows that the unemployment rate for trans Americans is double the rate of cis Americans. Likewise, 44% of trans people in this country are reported to be underemployed. 15% of trans Americans make under $10,000 a year, compared to 4% of cis Americans. Trans employment discrimination still exists in broad daylight, and we must all work together to stop it.


There is only one reason that these statistics can be true, and it is that LGBTQ people consistently experience discrimination in the workplace. As American citizens, all people, no matter their ethnicity or sexual orientation, should not be discriminated against in their respective occupations in regards to their identity. The only thing that should be judged when applying for a position of any sort should be a person’s qualification to fill the duties required for that job. Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Civil Rights Act employment protections on the basis of sex also apply to the LGBTQ+ population. However, history has shown that it takes more than just a Supreme Court ruling to guarantee protections. It took a whole second Supreme Court case (Obergefell v. Hodges) before the marriage equality ruling set in United States v. Windsor was able to be fully set into practice. This is an instrumental time in our history, and a time in which we must act. It is the job of the people to make sure the employment discrimination protections mandated by the Supreme Court is fully practiced in all facets of daily life. The employment discrimination battle is far from over, and we must keep fighting.

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