The Center for American Progress has released a new comprehensive report on the experiences of LGBT young people in the workforce and how this group is at a severe disadvantage. Entitled "Left Behind: How LGBT Young People Are Excluded from Economic Prosperity," the report outlines the barriers to good jobs for LGBT young people and provides recommendations to alleviate the situation.
According to the report, of the 52.8 million people ages 18 to 29 in the country, 3.4 million identify as LGBT. This is a significantly higher proportion of people identifying as LGBT than in any previous generation, perhaps because young people are feeling more and more comfortable to come out earlier and in all aspects of their life, including school and work.
However, as the report shows, LGBT young people face many barriers to economic success and equality. More than 85% of LGBT young people report harassment or discrimination in school, which starts them off at a disadvantage. Their potential for academic success is stifled when they are uncomfortable or feel they are in danger in the school environment. On top of this, LGBT youth face harsher disciplinary consequences in school, and make up 15% of the juvenile justice system.
Homelessness and poverty affect LGBT young people disproportionately, due to lack of acceptance by parents and relatives. The majority of LGBT young people are experiencing poverty, which makes it difficult to "travel to interviews, pay for necessities, and care for one's health," the report explains.
Transgender people face an unemployment rate twice that of the general population, and for transgender African Americans the unemployment rate is four times that of the general population. Moreover, the report also highlights the fact that out of all of the 5.4 million workers in the country who identify as LGBT, the majority are young women and people of color. Gender and race-based discrimination interact with homophobia and transphobia to create a unique set of challenges for these young people.
And for the LGBT young people that do have stable jobs, they are "especially hard hit by low wages," being that they comprise a large percentage of minimum wage earners. Additionally, there is a pay gap between gay/bisexual men and their straight counterparts. Controlling for factors such as education and region of the country, gay and bisexual men earn 10 to 32% less than straight men for the same jobs. Although Obama recently announced plans to issue an executive order forbidding federal contractors (companies who do more than $10,000 in business with the government each year) from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity, these orders do not extend to the entire country.
The report includes recommendations on what can be done to help LGBT young people to achieve more equality in the workforce. Among other recommendations, the report suggests passing federal legislation to ban employment discrimination, raising the minimum wage, increasing investments in job training and employment programs, and passing legislation to ban discrimination and bullying in schools.
The report concludes, "As the LGBT population and the general population continue to evolve and reflect a more diverse future, we as a nation need to make sure that all workers have the same access to the basic American bargain – the concept that hard work means getting ahead – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."