Gay money talks

New study highlights LGBT buying power, attitudes toward economy

by Lucy Hough

A recent report states that LGBT people are typically more optimistic about the general direction of the country, specifically in terms of economic growth, the job market and personal finances. And, as a result, LGBT buying power is high.

"The Gay and Lesbian Market in the U.S.: Trends and Opportunities in the LGBT Community, 6th Edition" was released by Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, in early August and relies on various data including that collected by Witeck and Combs Communications, which released a report in March 2010 about LGBT households' opinion of the economy.

"What we found out in March was that they were clearly more confident," Bob Witeck said.

Witeck and Combs work with Harris Interactive to do various research initiatives, typically dealing with LGBT people throughout the United States. Their sample includes individuals who are 18 years and older and self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

According to the report, gay and lesbian consumers have about $743 billion in buying power in 2010. Visibility of LGBT households due to marriage equality and civil unions has increased businesses' interest in marketing directly to LGBT people. The report says that approximately 58 percent of gay and lesbian consumers favor companies that market directly to them for household products and services and will consider LGBT-friendliness when switching products.

Witeck said that this research is important because it provides economic insight for a group of people who have typically been ignored. "We've been invisible for years," Witeck said. "It's time that we have good and valued and creditable information where it counts."

The data that Witeck and Combs released was collected in March of 2010, and Witeck said that opinion might have shifted even over the past few months, due to the lack of change in the job market - especially in Michigan. But he has noticed that LGBT people are often more optimistic because they have more confidence in the government.

"One of the things that's happening here is that they do have more confidence in the administration than other people," he explained. "They put their faith in their political behaviors."

Witeck said that providing data and research that focuses on the LGBT community is important to providing a voice to a large group of people who are often ignored. Witeck and Combs project LGBT people to make up 6.7 percent of the U.S. population and use this number to compare their results to the rest of the U.S. population. This number is higher than academic estimates between 4 and 5 percent, but lower than market models, which tend to be 10 percent or higher.

Packaged Facts' report focuses particularly on "buying power" - known as "disposable personal income" - which is defined as the total after-tax income to spend on personal consumption, interest payments or savings. Witeck said that despite the common conception that the LGBT community has more disposable income than straight people, this is growing to be more and more untrue, especially as more LGBT people get married and have or adopt children.

Moreover, there are many added social, legal and financial challenges placed on LGBT people in such arenas as marriage, adoption, health care and property rights. "There are many handicaps or barriers for gay people in a household," Witeck warned.

Witeck and Combs Communications does various other research that can be found online at http://www.witeckcombs.com.

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