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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bob Witeck Responds To Gay Poverty Study

Gay bloggers and sloggers are reeling over the latest study put out by The Williams Institute at UCLA. Lions and tigers and bear markets - Oh My! We're not wealthy!

Bob Witeck of Witeck-Combs Communications is one of our leading experts on GLBT market research and responds here to the apparent watershed in gay history.

The new findings by Dr. Lee Badgett and economists working with the Williams Institute are invaluable. I've been a friend and colleague of Lee Badgett's for years, and endorse her painstaking research on same-sex coupled households, and know that her analysis is always thorough.

She has long concluded that the LGBT population, as a whole, is not more affluent than our heterosexual counterparts, and that does seem clear. In characterizing poverty statistics, moreover, she and her team find that among the most marginalized households are those of lesbian couples raising children, especially people of color as well as those living in rural communities. That is not starkly surprising since it is likely also to be true of other households headed by women, and for the community of color in America. But what she also concludes too is that LGBT families lack the same equal economic security offered to others -- such as job nondiscrimination and access to government programs of income security that are available to married couples and not to unmarried LGBT couples.

She notes -- while we do not have representative samples -- that transgender people in particular are likely most at economic risk and joblessness, which seems apparent to us all.

This story of discrimination and unfairness is real. While gay people are not "victims" as a class, some of our households and families are and can be victimized by unfair public policies, by their status as sexual minorities, by their gender and race as well, and that is the story we find here.

That said, are the nation's gay consumers and households still resilient and valuable to American businesses? Indisputably. Our contributions to the economy remain real and meaningful, as consumers, taxpayers, workers, investors, managers, and entrepreneurs. We matter not because we all are said to be "rich," which is not the case but because we have decision-making power, purchasing power and entrepreneurial power to create assets and income for ourselves and others. Businesses know this, and the leading ones are growing more emboldened to talk with us directly and respectfully.

But while our fragile economy and its heartbeat come back to life, this study reminds us that especially during hard times, many in our community suffer as ever, and face not just economic setbacks but the ones imposed by a discriminatory nation of out-dated laws and mean-spirited prejudices.

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