LGBT community harder hit by the economic impact of pandemic

Contributed Photo/Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau

Household Pulse survey shows LGBT adults are more likely to report living in households with food and economic insecurity than non-LGBT residents

By Them File and Joey Marshall/U.S. Census Bureau

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) adult population reported living in households with higher rates of food and economic insecurity than non-LGBT Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau survey data recently released.

For the first time ever on a population survey sponsored by the Census Bureau, the latest version of the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) asks about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The HPS continues to provide insight into the experiences of American households during the coronavirus pandemic.

By combining a series of three questions, the survey allows researchers to compare the recent experiences of the LGBT population to other adults.

Overall, about 13.1% of LGBT adults lived in a household where there was sometimes or often not enough to eat in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBT adults.

Other highlights from today’s release:

  • 36.6% of LGBT adults lived in a household that had difficulty paying for usual household expenses in the previous seven days, compared to 26.1% of non-LGBT adults.
  • 19.8% of LGBT adults lived in a household with 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.

While earlier versions of the HPS asked respondents for their sex (male or female), Phase 3.2 rewords this question and adds two new items.

The first asks:

  • What sex were you assigned at birth on your original birth certificate?
  • Choice of answers: Male or Female.

The following question asks about current gender self-identification:

  • Do you currently describe yourself as male, female or transgender?
  • Choice of answers: Male, Female, Transgender or None of these.

It also now asks about sexual orientation:

  • Which of the following best represents how you think of yourself?
  • Choice of answers: Gay or lesbian; Straight, that is not gay or lesbian; Bisexual; Something else; I don’t know.

Today’s data release includes 37 detailed tables, most of which display SOGI estimates. In addition to the LGBT breakdowns presented here, the table package includes more detailed tabulations of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Just as with the previous 33 HPS data releases, the HPS tables show other core demographic household characteristics and provide insight into topics like employment, household spending, food sufficiency, housing security, and physical and mental health.

Defining LGBT

Survey respondents are categorized as LGBT if they report a sex at birth that does not align with their current gender identity; report a sexual orientation of gay, lesbian or bisexual; or if they currently identify as transgender.

Respondents whose sex at birth aligns with their current gender identity and who select Straight on the sexual orientation question are categorized as “non-LGBT.”

Respondents who select None of these on the current gender question and either Something elseI don’t know or Straight on the sexual orientation question are categorized as “other.”

Additionally, respondents whose sex at birth aligns with their current gender identity but who select either Something else or I don’t know on the sexual orientation question are also categorized as “other.”

Near Real-Time Data From HPS

The HPS is designed to provide near real-time data on how the pandemic has affected people’s lives. Information on the methodology and reliability of these estimates can be found in the source and accuracy statements for each data release.

Data users interested in state-level sample sizes, the number of respondents, weighted response rates, and occupied housing unit coverage ratios, can consult the quality measures file, available at the same location.   

The Week 34 data were collected between July 21 and August 2. The Census Bureau sent invitations to 1,042,642 households and received a total of 64,562 responses, for a weighted response rate of 6.1%.

Part of the Census Bureau’s Experimental Data Product series, the HPS was designed to have low respondent burden, provide quick turnaround on product releases and produce estimates that meet urgent public needs.

Survey questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity aim to understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across different subpopulations.

However, because the HPS is designed to rapidly produce experimental estimates, caution should be exercised when using these survey questions as standalone markers of the prevalence of LGBT adults in the general population. All estimates discussed here were calculated from a public-use microdata file.

Phase 3.2 of the HPS will continue collecting and releasing new data every two weeks. In addition to new detailed tables, the interactive data tool and COVID-19 vaccination tracker will also be updated.

The HPS is sent to about one million households every two weeks. If selected, you will receive an email from <> or a text message from 39242. Additional information is available on the HPS respondent website.

Thom File is a sociologist in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.

Joey Marshall is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.