Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ Respondents Say They’ve Experienced Discrimination, Bias in Financial Services

LGBTQIA+ Pride Month celebration

Respondents Share Feeling Blocked, Discouraged from Engaging with Financial Services, Products

DENVER—New research from the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) explores the experiences U.S. adults who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community have had with the financial services sector. The results accentuate issues this demographic has faced, which include higher instances* of saying that discrimination and bias happened due to factors such as physical appearance and sexual orientation.

“Restricting the ability to participate in the economy fully and fairly is detrimental to any group, particularly the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color and women. It prohibits individuals from living their best financial life,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president and CEO of NEFE. “Even in an era where a significant portion of our financial life is happening online and with limited interaction with others, discrimination, bias and assumptions still happen at a much higher rate among members of the LGBTQIA+ community. This population is being pushed aside.”

Prior to the start of PRIDE month, NEFE surveyed U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQIA+ community members on a broad range of issues regarding their interactions with the financial services industry and their own financial quality of life. Findings from the full report include:

  • Nearly one in three (30%) say they have experienced bias, discrimination or exclusion by or from organizations or individuals within the financial services sector.
  • Approximately two in five (36%) felt blocked or discouraged from engaging with financial services and products due to barriers or discrimination in how financial services are designed, marketed or offered (e.g., fee structure, application/approval requirements, etc.).
  • Those who indicated that they experienced bias, discrimination or were blocked or discouraged within the financial services section were asked what personal circumstances or identity attributes led to their experience. Age (39%) and sexual orientation (35%) were the top identity attributes selected**. Five percent indicated that none of the identity attributes in the survey led to experiencing bias, discrimination, exclusion and limited access to financial services.
  • Between 12% to 17% indicate experiencing bias, discrimination or an inequitable experience in the following context: employment or career opportunities (17%), housing (16%), credit (15%), pay (15%), health care (14%), lending (12%) or banking (12%).
  • Transgender respondents have dramatically different experiences in navigating the financial system. They (57%) are more likely than LGBTQIA+ cisgender men (23%) and women (26%) respondents to say they have experienced discrimination and bias.

Respondents were also asked about their financial quality of life, a topic that NEFE consistently researches to identify trends and changes throughout the country:

  • Roughly half (47%) of LGBTQIA+ respondents say the quality of their financial life is what they expected it to be, while 39% say it is worse than they expected and 14% say it is better than expected***.
  • Nearly two-thirds (60%) say they typically live paycheck to paycheck, while 38% say they do not****.

“The financial education field still has significant work to do to gather sophisticated data exploring financial issues and challenges within the LGBTQIA+ community. The fact that in 2022 we still do not have the representative national data is a problem,” says Hensley. “Through a deeper understanding of how this population is being economically restrained, intermediaries like financial planners, counselors, educators and advocates can better meet the needs to support this community.”

NEFE conducted this study as part of its PRIDE month activities to support the LGBTQIA+ community and foster financial equity and inclusion. This is part of NEFE’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion activities to explore ways to amplify research, representation and practice to address data gaps regarding financial well-being.

For more on this study, visit the Completed Research section of the NEFE website.

Full Methodology

This survey was conducted May 6-17, 2022, on behalf of NEFE, using non-probability panel services from Qualtrics. The sample included 1,050 adults aged 18 and older who identify as any of the following: transgender, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, māhū, muxe, non-binary/enby, questioning or unsure, two-spirit, asexual/aromatic, gay, lesbian, pansexual/bisexual/fluid, queer, same-gender-loving, stud. Individuals who could not find a resonating classification within the gender identity and sexual orientation survey questions also are included. The survey was weighted in cases where the sample population was statistically different from the LGBTQIA+ U.S. adult population, including weights by age, income, race/ethnicity and gender identity. The percentage of respondents has been included for each item. Percentages may not always add up to 100% because of computer rounding or the acceptance of multiple responses.

*Compared to the overall U.S. adult population.
**Other attributes include lack of wealth or assets (25%), gender identity or expression (25%), ethnicity (25%), education (25%), physical appearance (21%) and race (19%), mental ability (14%), family composition (13%), marital status (11%), physical ability (10%), lack of access to a computer, smartphone, or internet services (8%), geographic location (7%), religion (7%), other (1%).
***In March, we shared that 60% of U.S. adults say their current quality of financial life is what they expected, 16% said it was better than expected and 23% said it was worse than expected.
****In March, we shared that 47% of U.S. adults said they were typically living paycheck to paycheck.

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