Quietly, this year the Federal Reserve considered for the first time openly the well being of LGBTQ consumers and businesses in their annual reporting of data from the Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) alongside race, gender, immigration status, and other protected classes.
The Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2019
In a single section of the official report the Federal Reserve authors discussed the LGBTQ community, revealing that only sixty-four (64%) of adults identifying as LGB indicated they were “doing okay” financially, vs. seventy-seven (77%) of straight adults. LGB men and women who were single were the least likely to say they were “doing okay” (at 56% and 59%, respectively), followed by coupled LGB women (63%). GB men living with a partner reported comparably to their straight counterparts (81% vs. 83%).
The finding strongly suggests how LGB singles (of either gender) and coupled LGB women are more susceptible to financial hardship than their heterosexual peers are in the United States as a result of income & savings gaps, marketplace gaps, and policy gaps.
The Fed’s survey also notably nodded toward LGBTQ communities in the survey in asking whether a consumer had experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the past 12 months on the basis of their “sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity” in addition to their race, ethnicity, age, religion, or ability. Unfortunately, by asking respondents all of these categories in one question, though, as compared to separate questions for each it is impossible to differentiate the sources of discrimination for the 12% of consumers who answered affirmatively to the question.
Despite these important changes, the Federal Reserve’s official report is still thin on any details regarding the economic well being of LGBT households in the United States. LGBT consumer issues were still missing from the Federal Reserve’s Report analyses in sections on employment, banking & financial services, homeownership, student loans. The lack of the Agency’s inclusion of additional information about LGBT households and communities leaves many unanswered questions about the financial well-being of LGBTQ Americans.
Glaringly and most significantly, the Fed’s analysis failed to offer any information about the well-being transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans. Given that existing survey evidence from the National Center for Trangender Equality suggests an even starker Income Gap for transgender communities as compared to their cisgender peers, the Fed’s lack of discussion of transgender communities is a grievous omission.
Also sadly absent from the Fed report is any discussion about data regarding the experiences of consumers who identify as members of multiple protected classes. For one, the Report’s remains predominately focused on only one or two protected groups, and not the full spectrum of marginalized identities that suffer from unequal economic access. Also missing is any meaningful discussion about Americans who identify as members of multiple groups and who likely suffer compounding economic pressures as a result of their multiple marginalized identities.
The Federal Reserve’s 2020 Report shines a tiny bit of light onto the financial lives of LGBTQ Americans. And sadly, despite many years of social and legal victories, that picture still looks bleak.
And many questions remain unanswered from the Agency’s report about the impact on LGBTQ households and communities. Improvements to the should be undertaken in future reports on the well-being of domestic households to create a clearer picture of the distinctive experiences of LGBTQ Americans, as well as their distinctiveness as members who may also hold multiple marginalized identities..
CLEAR will continue to push the Federal Reserve to fully consider the lives of all LGBTQ Americans in the Agency’s reporting. CLEAR will also continue to produce the research and knowledge that can fill the Information Gap that still remains after the Fed’s reporting of the SHED data.