The end of the student loan forbearance period in the U.S. was in September. A recent study shows LGBTQ people will be disproportionately affected when the estimated 42.9 million Americans who have student debt resume paying it.
Students with LGBTQ+ backgrounds are more likely to have student loan debt than cisgender, heterosexual adults, according to a study published last month by The Williams Institute. According to the Access to Higher Education Project survey of 2021, 2.9 million LGBTQ+ adults aged 18-40 had federal student loans, compared to 23.2% of cis and heterosexuals.
Over half of trans adults reported having student debt (51%), followed by 34% of cis queer women and 27.9% of cis queer men.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community also owed different amounts. The largest group — a slim 51.7% majority of all respondents — owed between $10,000 and $50,000 in federal debt, with a third (32%) of LGBTQ+ borrowers reporting less than $10,000 in debt. A quarter (16.3%) owed $50,000 or more.
LGBTQ People: Adults
LGBTQ+ adults ages 18 to 40 owe an average of $34,000 in student debt, which is about $1,200 more than the national average: $32,731.
According to the federal government, LGBTQ+ adults have over $93.2 billion in student loans. Even though 42.5% of LGBTQ+ adults with federal debt also had private loans from banks, credit cards, or other lending institutions, that eye-watering figure doesn’t consider private loans.
According to a recent report, gay men and bisexuals earn less money than their heterosexual counterparts, adding to the debt crisis.
In a study published by the Institute of Labor Economics, wage disparities are studied on three continents: Europe, North America, and Australia. Researchers analyzed 24 reports and found bisexual men earned 9.7% less than their heterosexual peers, the biggest wage gap among queer workers. Bisexual women, on the other hand, earned 4.7% less than straight employees.
Despite research showing lesbians learn 7.2% more than heterosexual women, the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that LGBTQ+ women are at an elevated poverty risk.
Racial, ethnic, and gender identity weren’t mentioned in the study. These factors would probably alter the results significantly, given the high rates of incarceration and poverty affecting people of color, particularly trans women. According to a 2011 report by the National LGBTQ Task Force, 41% of Black trans women had a problem finding stable housing.
According to Nick Drydakis, an economist at Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K., these disparities are “a cause for concern,” despite recent progress. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that LGBTQ+ identity couldn’t be used as a basis for employment discrimination, so it could make it easier for marginalized groups to find jobs. Despite this, Republicans aren’t moving forward with the Equality Act.
The law and workplace guidelines should ensure people get the same pay regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity status, Drydakis said. It’s time to encourage LGBTQ+ workers to “apply for jobs or promotions” and ensure they can “raise concerns and get fair treatment.”
However, inclusive policies at specific companies are only so effective in the face of aggravating circumstances like the current COVID-19 pandemic. According to a survey, LGBTQ+ persons of color, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have a twice higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than white people do. According to the same study, queer and trans individuals of color were disproportionately more likely to report being laid off or having financial difficulties paying their rent and for necessities like groceries.
It’s the most vulnerable who will get hit hardest by COVID-19, as the U.S. struggles with debt and evictions simultaneously. There’s a crisis in the LGBTQ+ community that needs to be addressed by federal and local leaders.