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Study Finds High Costs of Transgender Employment Discrimination in Massachusetts

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Earlier this year, GLAAD highlighted the incredibly high levels of discrimination faced by transgender people as revealed in the report published by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. Now, a recent study by the Williams Institute of UCLA, focusing on discrimination against transgender people in the workplace, shows that not only is this discrimination pervasive, but it is expensive. According to the results of the study, it is estimated that employment discrimination against transgender people costs Massachusetts millions of dollars in state revenue per year.

The Williams Institute based its study on the findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which showed that due to anti-transgender bias, 20 percent of respondents lost a job, 39 percent were not hired for the job they applied for, and 17 percent were denied promotions. The NTDS also found that 15 percent of the transgender Massachusetts residents surveyed made less than $10,000 annually, compared to 3 percent of the general population—meaning that transgender men and women in the state are about five times more likely to live in poverty. Combining these findings with those of the U.S. Census Bureau regarding the number of people who identify as transgender in Massachusetts, the Williams Institute illustrates the effects of this income disparity on tax revenues, saying, “If transgender residents were making this amount [$10,000] at the same rate as the Massachusetts general population (3%), about 4,000 additional people would be making more than $10,000 every year…If all 4,000 people shifted from $10,000 to just $20,000 in annual income, the Commonwealth would garner over $2 million in additional income tax revenue per year.”

In addition to taxes, employment discrimination costs the state through public assistance expenditures. Like many unemployed residents in need of health insurance, transgender people who lose their jobs due to discrimination seek the assistance of public healthcare programs like MassHealth and Commonwealth Care. The Williams Institute estimates that Massachusetts spends about $3 million annually covering health costs for the unemployed victims of anti-transgender bias. Adding to this are the costs accrued by the state through workforce development programs and housing assistance programs, both of which are utilized by many unemployed residents, transgender or otherwise. As reported by the NTDS, people who lose their jobs due to discrimination are more likely to be evicted from their homes as well.

Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting transgender and gender non-conforming employees from discrimination in the workplace. This study by the Williams Institute exhibits the potential costs states face in the absence of such laws. Just as no transgender person should have to worry about losing their job because of their gender identity, no state should have to suffer financial losses because of employers’ discriminatory policies. GLAAD thanks the Williams Institute for conducting such an important study and urges media to use it as a resource to show the importance of non-discrimination policies that protect transgender Americans.