How has COVID-19 affected LGBTQ households?

Though the pandemic has affected the better half of all of us, how much more does it make life harder for LGBTQ people?

In a December study by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), national data from July and August of 2020 looks deeper into how much worse the pandemic has been for LGBTQ households.

Just the facts

  • 66% of LGBTQ households have a serious financial problem, struggling with things such as 1) paying utilities; 2) affording medical care; and 3) paying credit card bills, loans and other debt. 

  • 52% of LGBTQ households with children had a hard time keeping their education going versus 36% of non-LGBTQ households with children.

  • 29% of LGBTQ households had serious problems with internet connection to do work or schoolwork at home vs. 17% of non-LGBTQ households.

  • 38% of LGBTQ households have been unable to get medical care or delayed getting medical care for a serious problem.

  • 64% of LGBTQ households experienced employment loss vs. 45% of non-LGBTQ households, including 1) having lost a job or business, or had been furloughed; and 2) having wages or hours reduced or taking a mandatory unpaid leave.

  • 64% of LGBTQ people in households where they or someone else has to leave the house for non-healthcare work had serious concerns about COVID safety at work.

Read more into it

NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a five-part survey in July and August 2020 to examine “the impact of COVID-19 on households in the United States,” and the survey included a section in which the respondents could identify as LGBTQ. 

The study was categorized in four different ways. LGBTQ people have been affected in several ways, but these are certainly among the most important. Though every study, every story, and every situation is different, it can be found here that a great amount of LGBTQ households experienced more hardship during this pandemic — and even more so, LGBTQ households of color.

Higher rates of job losses and uncertainty

It was established in the study that 64% of LGBTQ households experienced employment loss, including 1) having lost a job or business, or had been furloughed; and 2) having wages or hours reduced or taking a mandatory unpaid leave, compared to 45% of non-LGBTQ households. This is constructed with the fact that LGBTQ people report higher rates of discrimination when in the workplace or when searching for employment.

And in the POC community, 71% of LGBTQ Latinx households have had job or wage loss, compared to 64% of all LGBTQ households.

In a study done by the Human Rights Campaign, 40% of LGBTQ adults work in the top five industries hit hardest by COVID-19:

  • Restaurants and food services

  • Hospitals

  • K-12 education

  • Colleges and universities

  • Retail

This was further supported with a study done in April and May 2020 by HRC and PSB which found that 33% of LGBTQ folks had their work hours reduced, and showed higher among LGBTQ POC (38%), transgender folks (54%), and transgender POC (58%).

And lastly, 89% of LGBTQ households with healthcare employees showed serious concern about their safety from COVID-19.

Greater economic upheaval and insecurity

LGBTQ individuals tend to have a higher poverty rate than non-LGBTQ people. Furthermore, it finds that lesbian and heterosexual women have similar rates of poverty, which are less than both gay and heterosexual men. And transgender individuals face a poverty rate of 29.4% and face higher economic insecurity and uncertainty, according to a 2019 U.S. Transgender Survey.

The current study found that LGBTQ respondents were twice as likely to have “very low” incomes: 22% of LGBTQ respondents reported having an income of under $15,000 (compared to 11% of non-LGBTQ), and 62% reported having incomes below $50,000 (compared to 47% of non-LGBTQ).

Since the start of the pandemic, the current study found that Black and Latinx households reported higher rates of financial problems. 95% of Black LGBTQ respondents and 70% of Latinx LGBTQ respondents indicated in their responses that they or someone else in their household experienced serious financial problems.

Almost one in five (19%) of LGBTQ households reported in the current study that they weren’t getting enough food every day since the pandemic began, and 25% reported having issues with their homes, such as heating/cooling, mold, pests, and having safe drinking water.

Deeper challenges with accessing health care

A survey done by the Center for American Progress determined that 8% of LGB adults and 29% of transgender adults said that they had been turned away from a health care provider because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And in the current study, it was found that 13% of LGBTQ individuals lost health insurance coverage since the start of the pandemic.

And for serious medical problems during the outbreak, 38% of LGBTQ households were unable to get them addressed when they needed it most. On top of this, 25% reported in the current study that they were unable to attain or were delayed in getting prescription drugs for a major health issue during the pandemic, and 54% of Black LGBTQ people indicated that they or someone in their household were unable to or got delayed medical care.

Increased struggles navigating work, school, child rearing, and social isolation

18% of LGBTQ individuals indicated that they had “serious problems” working from home compared to 7% of non-LGBTQ individuals. Furthermore, 44% stated in the study that they or someone in their household had a serious problem coping with social and physical isolation, compared to 23% of non-LGBTQ people.

Prior research has shown that LGBTQ people are more likely to live alone and lack an extended family network they can turn to for support. The current study found that older LGBTQ adults were half as likely to have life partners or significant others, half as likely to have close relatives to call for help, and four times less likely to have children to provide care.

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What does this all mean?

It is proven quite significantly from this study that LGBTQ people are highly affected by the pandemic. However, not every situation is the same around the country. And LGBTQ POC have been widely discriminated against, even pre-COVID.

It is in the power of those of us who are able to spread the word and raise awareness for those who do not and cannot have a voice to express themselves.


What resources exist for LGBTQ households and LGBTQ POC who are struggling? How has COVID affected you?

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