Black LGBTQ Americans face ‘harsher consequences’ of virus-hit economy
Black LGBTQ Americans are disproportionately affected by the economic downturn fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
An online survey of 10,000 people across the U.S., conducted from April to July by LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign and PSB Insights, found that Black LGBTQ respondents fared worse than both the Black population and the LGBTQ population along every economic indicator measured.
“We know Black people are dying from COVID-19 at extremely alarming rates. Unfortunately, this new research shows Black people and Black LGBTQ people are suffering disproportionate economic inequities,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “The data make clear what we have long known: that those living at the intersections of multiply marginalized identities face harsher consequences of the pandemic.”
The most recent report builds on prior studies conducted by HRC and PSB Insights that found LGBTQ people — particularly transgender people of color — are more likely to have been economically affected as a result of the pandemic.
‘Multiple marginalized identities’
The study found that Black LGBTQ people were more likely to have had their jobs affected by the pandemic.
“Within the LGBTQ community, many at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities are at some of the greatest risk of facing the economic fallout from COVID-19,” the report states.
Specifically, 31 percent of Black LGBTQ respondents to the survey reported a reduction in their work hours, compared to 23 percent of all Black respondents and 28 percent of all LGBTQ respondents.
Black LGBTQ people were also more likely to have lost their jobs: 18 percent of Black LGBTQ respondents became unemployed, compared to 16 percent of both all Black respondents and all LGBTQ respondents.
J. Maurice McCants-Pearsall, the HRC’s director HIV and health equity, said that Black people are overrepresented in sectors of the economy like food service and retail most likely to be affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic and most likely to be exposed to the virus.
“They are classified as essential workers, but a lot of them went without proper [personal protective equipment] and supplies,” he said. “They couldn’t afford not to show up at work, and they have to make money to earn a living for themselves and their families.”
According to the report, Black LGBTQ people are more likely to have changed the way their households are spending and to be under financial stress as a result of the pandemic.
Over one third (36 percent) of Black LGBTQ respondents reported having changed their household budgets, compared to 27 percent of all Black respondents and 30 percent of LGBTQ respondents. One in five Black LGBTQ respondents has checked to see if their bank account was in overdraft, whereas 14 percent of both all Black respondents and all LGBTQ respondents reported the same.
Black LGBTQ people were more likely to request delays in bills and rent. Twenty-one percent of the Black LGBTQ people surveyed had asked for delays in paying their bills, compared to 17 percent of Black respondents and 14 percent of LGBTQ respondents. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Black LGBTQ respondents had requested delays in paying their rent, compared to 12 percent of Black respondents and 11 percent of LGBTQ respondents.
‘Racism is a public health issue’
The HRC study falls in line with existing research that demonstrates that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus.
“Racism is a public health issue” McCants-Pearsall said. “If we don’t address structural and social racism, we can’t expect to have improved outcomes for communities of color, in particular Black communities.”
McCants-Pearsall said the U.S. can apply the lessons learned from the HIV epidemic for communities of color to the response to COVID-19.
“Communities of color, particularly Black gay men, are disproportionately impacted by HIV,” McCants-Pearsall said. “We are seeing the same situation.”
For McCants-Pearsall, better data collection is key to addressing economic and health disparities among LGBTQ people, people of color and those at the intersection of the two groups.
In a letter to Health Secretary Alex Azar, HRC joined racial justice organizations in a campaign demanding that the agency compile accurate data as it relates to LGBTQ people of color in the U.S.
“We can use that data to advocate for candidates, to argue for more resources,” McCants-Pearsall said. “It gives us the ability to show decision makers these are populations that are being disproportionately impacted. This is data that shows that we need to make sure that those resources got to those communities.”
“If we don’t have that data, we are just screaming,” he added.