In the run-up to Pride Month 2018, international credit reporting firm Experian Inc. commissioned an online survey to investigate the financial habits and attitudes of LGBTQ individuals.
The study compared the responses of 500 individuals who identified as LGBTQ with those of 500 who did not, while also examining differences among age groups in each population. All respondents were at least 25 years old. Although the company has elected not to publish the results in their entirety, its own report of its findings cites enough data to reveal at least one overarching theme: that family dynamics play a major role in determining an individual’s economic circumstances and priorities, especially if that individual is a member of the LGBTQ community.
In particular, Experian’s new statistics seem compatible with the widely held theory that LGBTQ people are both less likely to have children and less likely to enjoy close relationships with their families of origin. This can mean greater anxiety across multiple age brackets, with the company’s analysis hinting most strongly at the concern among LGBTQ elders that their amassed retirement savings must be sufficient to compensate for a lack of support from relatives. With regard to retirement housing, for instance, an aging person long estranged from their family might not only bear the financial burden without contributions from children, nieces or nephews, but also find themselves forced to enter assisted living earlier than would have been the case if family members had been present to provide physical care. By way of compensation, remaining childless offers the same benefit to queer people as to the millions of cis-het adults who choose not to become parents: freedom. Saving on diapers and college textbooks leaves more money for short-term discretionary purchases like entertainment, as well as long-term lifestyle investments, such as a more expensive home.
But where family relationships, or the lack thereof, can present opportunities as well as challenges, there is one influence on the financial lives of LGBTQ people that is exclusively destructive: discrimination. Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ people surveyed stated that they had suffered financially because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For 13 percent of respondents, those trials included open harassment while on the job. Critically, discrimination makes itself felt on both the income and spending sides of the financial equation. Even as more than one in 10 individuals report having missed out on a job, a promotion or a pay raise, a similar number say discrimination on the basis of their LGBTQ identity has forced them to accept increased housing costs.
Yes, Experian’s published summary of its recent findings leaves much unsaid, and many questions unanswered. Yes, it can be argued that simply releasing the full results of its study — specifically, the responses of non-LGBTQ participants — would have allowed for a deeper understanding not merely of the financial lives of LGBTQ individuals, but of the ways in which the fact of identifying as LGBTQ shapes those circumstances, with more data to support, or to alter, subsequent conclusions. Even so, the report as it stands is a place to start.