Research on LGBTQ+ People and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Produced by the HRC Foundation

Last Updated 8/18/22

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, HRC Foundation has been actively engaged in research to monitor and understand the impact of the pandemic on the physical, mental, and financial well-being of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the United States.

At the beginning of the pandemic, HRC Foundation released a brief in March 2020 highlighting the potentially elevated risk for COVID-19 faced by LGBTQ+ Americans — along with many communities around the globe — who will face unique challenges due to economic and health care situations.

The Lives and Livelihoods of Many in the LGBTQ Community are at Risk Amidst COVID-19 Crisis” released in March 2020, found that an estimated 40% of employed LGBTQ+ adults were working in restaurants and food service, K-12 and higher education, or hospitals and retail - industries significantly impacted by the pandemic.

Additionally, LGBTQ+ people and families were more likely than the general population to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid medical leave, and basic necessities. As a result, LGBTQ+ people were hypothesized to be at a greater risk of negative economic consequences associated with the virus.

Economic Impact of COVID-19
on the LGBTQ+ Community

Building upon that research, HRC partnered with PSB Insights to track the economic impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community throughout the first year of the pandemic.

Using polling data from thousands of U.S. adults, HRC released 5 issue briefs throughout 2020 on the disparate economic impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ adults, finding that LGBTQ+ adults, particularly BIPOC LGBTQ+ adults and transgender adults, were more likely than the general population to have experienced a cut in work hours, and to have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic:

  • All LGBTQ+ Adults:The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ Community” (April 22, 2020)
    • The brief found that LGBTQ+ people are at both heightened health and economic risk of the virus, as they are
      (1) more likely to work jobs in highly affected industries, often with more exposure and/or higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis;
      (2) are less likely to have health coverage; and
      (3) are more likely to smoke and have chronic illnesses like asthma that can significantly increase complications during infection.
  • LGBTQ+ BIPOC Adults:The Impact Of COVID-19 On LGBTQ+ Communities Of Color” (May 20, 2020)
    • New research from the Human Rights Campaign and PSB shows the disproportionate economic impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ communities of color.
  • Transgender Adults: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 Intensifies for Transgender and LGBTQ+ Communities Of Color” (June 15, 2020)
    • New data, released in partnership with PSB Research, now demonstrates the real, devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on the transgender community, especially transgender people of color.
  • Black LGBTQ+ people:The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Black LGBTQ+ People” (August 2020)
    • As of July 22, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly a quarter (23%) of COVID-19 deaths have been Black individuals, despite Black individuals making up only 13% of the United States population. In other words, the percent of deaths from COVID-19 that are Black individuals is 77% greater than the percent of Black people in the United States.
  • Latine LGBTQ+ people: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Latine LGBTQ+ People (September 2020)
    • Latine LGBTQ people are employed in some of the industries most highly affected by the pandemic as many are frontline workers. As of September 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly 21% of provisional death counts involving the coronavirus disease have been Latine individuals, who make up nearly 19% of the United States populous.

COVID-19 Continues To Adversely Impact LGBTQ+ People While Initial Phases Of Reopening Create New Economic Problems

As some states and municipalities across the country have begun to institute policies for reopening their economies during Summer 2020, significant attention must be paid to communities who are most vulnerable and living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. As people continue to go back to work, LGBTQ+ people will continue to face elevated health risks associated with the virus, as they are more likely to have compromised respiratory and immune systems.

Additional research from HRC and PSB Insights published in August 2020 "COVID-19 Continues To Adversely Impact LGBTQ+ People While Initial Phases Of Reopening Create New Economic Problems," found that the negative economic consequences of the pandemic were persisting longer for LGBTQ+ adults than their cisgender and straight peers.

This brief provides additional confirmation of what has long been known: the most vulnerable communities are being hit hardest by the pandemic, even in the reopened economy.

Health Impacts and Health Equity

In 2021, HRC launched a new study, in conjunction with Community Marketing Insights (CMI), with efforts funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Approximately 1,700 LGBTQ+ adults were enrolled and surveyed up to three times (baseline/July 2021; wave 2/February 2022; wave 3/May 2022) in order to capture the changing economic and health impacts of the pandemic on the lives and well-being of LGBTQ+ adult. The survey findings revelead that LGBTQ+ adults were significantly more likely than the general population to have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a supermajority (79%) reporting they had received a COVID-19 booster vaccination, as well as being significantly more likely to have received at least one booster shot. However, LGBTQ+ adults may have been more likely to get COVID-19 compared to all adults in the United States.

For the first time, our research presents data on concerns with the vaccines among people who undergo hormone replacement therapy or take medication for the treatment or prevention of HIV. Most notably, Black and Latine LGBTQ+ adults have expressed some of the highest rates of concern with how the vaccines may interact with their medication for treating or preventing HIV.

On vaccination rates, the data shows that over nine in ten, or 93%, of respondents are fully vaccinated, defined as receiving both doses of a two-dose vaccine (85%) or one dose of the single-dose vaccine (8%). Furthermore:

  • 93% are fully vaccinated
  • 3% are partially vaccinated, having received only the first dose of two-dose vaccines
  • 4% are unvaccinated and have not received any vaccine doses.
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