Graphic of a downward trend line that reads; "Discrimination Deficit"

New UCLA study shows cost of WV’s Discrimination Deficit

CHARLESTON, West Virginia — A new study from UCLA’s Williams Institute shows legal discrimination toward LGBTQ people in West Virginia costs the state at least $50 million annually.

The researchers conducted an economic analysis of the stigma and discrimination LGBTQ people face in the Mountain State. These factors have long been known to contribute to health disparities for LGBTQ people, and this study finally puts a price tag on several specific areas of disparities.

“This report makes it clear that discrimination comes with a hefty price tag,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “It’s time for our lawmakers to take the Discrimination Deficit seriously. It’s unconscionable that, in the same week this study is released showing how much discrimination costs our state, some lawmakers want to make the situation worse by passing the ‘License to Discriminate in Foster Care’ bill.”

The stigma and discrimination LGBTQ people face puts them at a greater risk of depression, binge drinking and smoking. The report estimates West Virginia could add between $50.9 million and $68.6 million to its economy by improving these three specific disparities. That’s possible by passing the Fairness Act.

The study also concludes that our businesses lose $8,474 on average for every employee who leaves West Virginia to find a more LGBTQ-inclusive community.

“Senate Bill 13 will keep more kids in foster care because it will allow taxpayer funded child welfare agencies to turn away qualified, loving LGBTQ parents,” Schneider said. “This bill won’t do anything to help the nearly 7,000 kids we have in foster care. We simply can’t afford SB 13. Our Discrimination Deficit is already too high.”

A 2019 analysis shows just how costly it can be for the state to keep kids in foster care for long periods of time. Every child who stays in foster care for four years, as opposed to finding a permanent family after just one year, winds up adding half a million dollars to our Discrimination Deficit.

Most of that $500,000 cost will fall on the shoulders of the child who was kept in the system for years — their future earnings are likely to be much smaller than other children that stay in the system for just a short time. But researchers estimate close to $200,000 of the cost could fall to the government in lost tax revenue, as well as the cost of welfare payments, substance use treatment, incarceration, crime, and other government services.

Senate Bill 13, the “License to Discriminate in Foster Care” bill, would allow taxpayer funded child welfare agencies to refuse to serve LGBTQ parents and kids. This means agencies could turn away gay teenagers who are the victims of abuse or neglect, and that agencies could prevent LGBTQ couples from adopting a child.

Learn more about SB 13 by downloading our fact sheet here.