New Study Reveals How 307,000 LGBTQ Virginians Are Vulnerable to Discrimination

The state lacks important legal protections for LGBT youth and adults.

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Virginia’s legal landscape puts the state’s 257,000 LGBT adults and 50,400 LGBT youth at risk of discrimination and harassment. The social, economic, and health effects of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people negatively impact Virginia’s economy by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

In the study, researchers assessed the prevalence and impact of several forms of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people in Virginia, including harassment and discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; harassment and bullying in schools; and family rejection of LGBT youth.

“The creation of a more supportive legal landscape for LGBT people could benefit the economy in Virginia,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Renberg Senior Scholar and State & Local Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination laws would be a step in that direction.”

KEY FINDINGS

Many LGBT people in Virginia experience economic instability.

  • 21% of LGBT adults in Virginia reported having an annual household income below $24,000, compared to 16% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data. Similarly, 27% of LGBT adults in Virginia reported that they do not have enough money for food, compared to 13% of non-LGBT adults.
  • 9% of LGBT adults in Virginia reported that they were unemployed compared to 5% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data.
  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 6% of transgender respondents in Virginia were unemployed and 23% were living in poverty.

LGBT people in the state experience negative health outcomes associated with stigma and discrimination.

  • Research indicates that stigma and discrimination contribute to adverse health outcomes for LGBT adults, such as major depressive disorder, binge drinking, substance use, and suicidality.
  • LGBT adults in Virginia are significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, to binge drink, and to smoke than non-LGBT adults: 44% of LGBT adults in Virginia reported having been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to 19% of non-LGBT adults; 27% of LGBT adults reported binge drinking compared to 15% of non-LGBT adults; and 30% of LGBT adults in the state reported that they currently smoke compared to 16% of non-LGBT adults, according to data from the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

Health disparities for LGBT people negatively impact Virginia’s economy.

  • Reducing the disparity in major depressive disorder between LGBT and non-LGBT people in Virginia by 25% to 33.3% could benefit the state’s economy by $103.4 million to $136.4 million annually in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
  • Reducing the disparity in binge drinking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $38.0 million to $50.9 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
  • Reducing the disparity in current smoking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $65.2 million to $86.7 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
  • Discrimination can lead to lower earnings and unemployment, which can result in increased reliance on public benefits. For example, discrimination in the workplace against transgender people costs Virginia an estimated $394,000 in state Medicaid expenditures each year.