Statewide civil rights laws offer no protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, housing and public accommodations.
Arizona’s legal landscape and social climate put the state’s 203,000 LGBT adults and 45,500 LGBT youth at risk of discrimination and harassment. The social, economic and health effects of stigma and discrimination against LGBT people negatively impact Arizona’s economy by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
The study documents the prevalence and impact of several forms of stigma and discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state, including harassment and discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations; harassment and bullying in schools; and family rejection of LGBT youth.
“Arizona ranks 29th in the US in support for LGBT people and issues—slightly below the national average,” says lead author Christy Mallory, State & Local Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “A number of businesses and localities protect LGBT people from discrimination, however, Arizona’s statewide Civil Rights Act does not currently include sexual orientation or gender identity. This creates a limited and uneven patchwork of protections for LGBT people in the state.”
Key findings of the report include
- 39% percent of LGBT adults in Arizona reported having an annual household income below $24,000, compared to 24% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data. Similarly, 35% of LGBT adults in Arizona reported that they do not have enough for food compared to 18% of non-LGBT adults.
- 12% of LGBT adults in Arizona reported that they were unemployed compared to 8% of non-LGBT adults, according to Gallup data.
- The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 16% of transgender respondents in Arizona were unemployed and 28% were living in poverty.
Negative Health Outcomes
- LGBT adults in Arizona are significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder and to be current smokers than non-LGBT adults: 35% of LGBT adults in Arizona reported having been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to 19% of non-LGBT adults, and 28% of LGBT adults in the state are current smokers compared to 16% of non-LGBT adults, according to data from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Depression and smoking are two health outcomes that have been linked to experiences of stigma and discrimination.
- 47% of LGB students in the state had seriously considered suicide compared to 15% of non-LGB students in the prior year, according to data from the 2015 Arizona Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
- LGB students in Arizona were also more than twice as likely as non-LGB students to report smoking cigarettes in the prior month and were also more likely to report drinking and marijuana use, according to data from the 2015 Arizona Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Negative Impacts on the State’s Economy
- Reducing the disparity in major depressive disorder between LGBT and non-LGBT people in Arizona by 25% to 33.3% could benefit the state’s economy by $78.0 million to $104.5 million annually.
- Reducing the disparity in current smoking by the same proportion could benefit the state’s economy by $35.6 million to $47.4 million in increased productivity and reduced health care costs each year.
- Discrimination can lead to lower earnings and unemployment, which can result in increased reliance on public benefits. For example, discrimination in the workplace against transgender people annually costs Arizona approximately $562,000 in state Medicaid expenditures.
“Creating a more supportive environment for LGBT people would likely reduce economic instability and health disparities experienced by LGBT individuals,” says co-author Brad Sears, David Sanders Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. “That, in turn, would benefit the state, employers and the economy.”
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