Discrimination Means Children with LGBT Parents May Face Extra Economic Hardships

LGBT MoneyThere’s a myth that LGBT parents are all affluent—a myth perpetuated by many in the media, who tend to focus on upper-middle and upper class families when they do LGBT family stories. The reality is much different. Children being raised by same-sex couples are in fact twice as likely to live in poverty as those being raised by married heterosexual parents. (There has been less research about children of single LGB parents—but it seems reasonable to assume the same is true for them.) And the transgender population has a higher poverty rate than the general population, although there has been little research about transgender parents specifically.

A new report out today dives into detail on the extra economic hardships that children of LGBT parents may face because of discrimination against their families. The report, “Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families,” is a companion to the “All Children Matter” report that came out last October and detailed the demographics of and legal issues faced by LGBT families (about which more here). It was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, the Family Equality Council, and the Center for American Progress, in partnership with the National Association of Social Workers.

Some of the extra economic burdens include:

  • Lack of legal protections. Because same-sex couples cannot marry, children in LGBT families often have legal ties to only one parent. Althouh legal documents can help create some protections, they are costly and usually inadequate.
  • Higher taxes. LGBT families cannot file joint federal tax returns and are often denied child-related tax deductions and credits. As a result, many LGBT families pay higher taxes.
  • Reduced access to health benefits. Because employers are not required to extend coverage to children without legal ties to their parents, LGBT families may be forced to buy coverage privately for their children or go without.
  • Lack of access to safety net programs. Programs designed to support families during difficult economic times often treat LGBT families inconsistently or exclude them completely. As a result, children fall through the safety net when they most need help, including when a parent dies or becomes disabled.

The report recommends addressing these issues by: 

  • Strengthening the legal ties of the entire family by legalizing and federally recognizing same-sex marriage.
  • Allowing joint adoption by LGBT parents, and recognizing LGBT parents through other avenues such as second-parent adoption and de facto parenting that allow children to gain full legal ties to their parents.
  • Revising the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code to provide equitable treatment for LGBT families.
  • Equal access to health insurance.
  • Modernizing archaic wrongful death and intestacy statutes.

The report also suggests a number of steps that governmental agencies, community-based organizations, advocates, and funders can take to assist LGBT families, including low-income families, those living in poverty, and those in crisis, such as:

  • Expanding outreach to, and documenting the unmet needs of, low-income LGBT families, including LGBT families of color and LGBT families living in rural communities.
  • Expanding training to organizations serving low-income LGBT families, including adoption agencies, child welfare and government agency workers, judges, and schools.
  • Creating guidebooks to help LGBT families navigate the economic hurdles they face and, if needed, help them access safety net programs.

At a time when economic fairness is a big part of our national conversation, this is a timely and important report.