Mary Menefee took to my Facebook page to express her displeasure with my focus on the income inequality and insecurity faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) American families. She leaned on the two favorite “truths” of those against marriage equality. Marriage is between a man and a woman because the Bible says so and that voters have resisted efforts to change that definition. But Menefee started out her missive with a myth that needs to be busted.
“Gays make more money than non-gays. . .,” Menefee wrote. That’s flat-out false.
We gays only have ourselves to blame for this idea that LGBT are a moneyed tribe. Seemingly through sheer will and fabulosity, we swoop into under-utilized, ignored or forgotten neighborhoods and transform them into swank destinations to live and dine for everyone. And then we move on. Of course, our nomadic nature is driven as much by economics (cheap rent and housing stock) as it is by safety. Still, our handiwork is there for all to see here in Washington, New York City, California or on Bravo. But this doesn’t reflect the reality. Just like most Americans with families, the gays don’t make a lot of money. Actually, they make less.
“All Children Matter,” a 2011 report by the Center for American Progress, the Family Equality Council and the Movement Advancement Project, has a couple of charts folks need to see.
According to an analysis of Census Bureau data from 2000 by the Williams Institute, the median income for same-sex couples raising children was $46,200 while for married heterosexual couples raising children it was $59,600. That’s a $13,400 difference. The gap increases to $15,507 when the average income for the gay couple ($59,270) is matched up with that of the straight couple ($74,777).
Gary Gates, a scholar with the Williams Institute who has analyzed 2010 Census Bureau data for the forthcoming American Community Survey (ACS), notes that while the gap has narrowed, it still remains.
Different-sex married couples with kids, average household income: $96,265
Same-sex couples with kids, average household income: $88,828
Different-sex married couples with kids, median household income: $77,000
Same-sex couples with kids, median household income: $67,000
The gap in average income was $7,437. The gap in the median income was $10,000.
While we’re at it, let’s look at some poverty numbers. LGBT families with children earn less than married heterosexual families with children. And there are more of them living in poverty and receiving public assistance.
Based on 2000 Census Bureau data, the Williams Institute estimated in a 2009 report that 21 percent of male same-sex couples raising children and 20 percent of female same-sex couples raising children were living in poverty. That’s compared to nine percent for married heterosexual couples. Now take a look at a chart Gates gave me from the ACS analysis of 2010 Census Bureau data.
As you can see, 3.4 percent of gay men and lesbians are on public assistance compared with .9 percent of straights. The percentages are higher for LGBT families with children with 3.4 percent of lesbian couples and 2.7 percent of gay male couples on the dole. That’s 6.1 percent compared to 1.3 percent for married heterosexual couples raising children.
So, no, Ms. Menefee, gays don’t make more money than non-gays. As if that’s an excuse or a rationale to deny LGBT families the economic security that comes with marriage and full access to the American dream.