Study: Gay families more likely to earn less
by Heather Cassell
Same-gender families earn an estimated $13,000 less than heterosexual married families, according to a report released this week by the LGBT Family Collaborative.
The collaborative, made up of Our Family Coalition, the LGBT Community Center, and COLAGE, also found after reviewing data from the 2000 U.S. census that at least 52,000 same-gender couples are raising at least 70,500 children in California. Of those families more than half of all African American (43 percent), Asian Pacific Islander (45 percent), and Latin (62 percent) same-gender couples between the ages of 25-55 are raising children of their own, while only 18 percent of Caucasian same-sex couples are raising children.
The study noted that the minority families have "significantly fewer economic resources than Caucasian same-gender families."
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have been having families for many years in many ways," said Judith Appel, executive director of Our Family Coalition, during a conference call with reporters October 30, "but over the last decade our families have been increasing in numbers and in diversity."
Appel said that the collaborative set out to find out who same-gender families really are in order to incorporate and meet their needs in the LGBT and broader communities. Appel and Rebecca Rolfe, interim executive director of the LGBT center, said that not all LGBT families are represented in this first-of-its-kind report focusing on the Bay Area due to "single parents and transgender identified parents" not being included in the data collection, as well as families that didn't identify themselves in the census. Appel and Rolfe hope more can be learned about working class LGBT families in future studies.
One of the misunderstandings about LGBT families was their financial status.
"There is a misconception about who our families are [and] that our families tend to be affluent white people raising children who can really provide their own resources," said Appel, "and what we've actually found is that the inverse is true. There is a large number of parents of color and low-income parents raising kids, they are just not very visible."
The report found that in San Francisco, out of the 589 same-sex families raising at least 825 children, the median household income was $83,060.
In Alameda County, out of the at least 1,272 same-gender families raising at least 2,163 children, the median household income was $70,000.
The average level of unemployment of same-gender parents in San Francisco is 22.6 percent and in Alameda County it is 26.8 percent. More than half of same-gender parents in San Francisco hold a college degree, while less than half of same-gender parents in Alameda County hold a college degree. The average age of same-gender parents in San Francisco is 43; in Alameda County it is 38. The median number and age of children in San Francisco households is 1.4, age 8.4, respectively, and in Alameda County it is 1.7, age 6.2, respectively.
Rolfe concurred with Appel about the myth of the affluent white same-gender families and added that the reality was compounded by the cost of living in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area, which was pushing LGBT families out of San Francisco.
"One of the significant issues is that California same-gendered couples with children are earning significantly less than different-gendered married couples with children," said Rolfe. "Statewide, the average same-gendered household parent earns $13,000 lower than the average household income of married couples with children."
Rolfe added that LGBT people face barriers in education and employment due to discrimination, which "significantly reduced earning levels," which was true for queer individuals without children. She pointed to the report's recommendations for more visibility of and policies to protect LGBT families.
Appel pointed out that the Bay Area isn't immune to homophobia and that education about LGBT families remains an issue. Just last week, she said, right-wing protesters targeted a forum Our Family Coalition sponsored for 130 individuals representing school board members, administrators, parents, and teachers about ways to make schools more welcoming for LGBT families and children. Appel said that protesters handed both parents and children leaving school inflammatory anti-gay fliers rather than protesting during the forum itself.
Appel said more needs to be done to make these families visible and to assist with their multiple needs.
Ruby Cymrot-Wu, 22, a Bay Area native, said during the press conference that it would have been easier for her while she was growing up if her family was reflected in the curriculum and if teachers stepped in to discuss LGBT families and individuals when comments were made.
"[I was] constantly forced to come out about my family, because people did not understand how both of my moms could be related to me," said Cymrot-Wu, whose family is multiracial. She said she had to explain that her mother of Chinese descent wasn't her nanny. "Had my teachers stepped up to include LGBT content in the curriculum I would not have felt so isolated É the burden of representing the LGBT community would have been lifted."
Cymrot-Wu is now an educator and lives in Oakland.
To assist same-gender families in the Bay Area, recommendations found in the report suggest more opportunities for LGBT families to network and meet each other through a variety of support groups, programming, and events, as well as training LGBT parents and allies how to become advocates for their families in schools.
To download the report, visit http://www.ourfamily.org/.