SHOWCASE May 1, 2019

BUILDING AN EVIDENCE BASE TO ADVOCATE FOR LGBTQI ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Helping improve the inclusion of LGBTQI people in the decision making of development banks and the private sector is the aim of APCOM’s Finance Inc. project which we commenced last year. 

We’re extremely fortunate to have as part of our Advisory Group for the project Prof. M.V. Lee Badgett from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an expert in economic and policy issues affecting LGBT people. 

Prof. Badgett has done trailblazing research into the economic impact of discrimination against LGBT people in India and Indonesia, and her latest book, The Economic Case For LGBT Equality: Why Fair And Equal Treatment Benefits Us All, will be published next year by Beacon Press.

We asked Prof. Badgett to share her thoughts and insights on some key issues around building an evidence base to support advocacy on LGBTQI economic and financial inclusion.

What kind of data do we have in relation to LGBTQI economic and financial inclusion?

“The present state of data is poor everywhere in the world. In many countries, we have only a small number of studies that have collected data on some parts of the LGBTQI communities. But we also need data from representative samples so we can compare LGBTQI people to non-LGBTQI people and see where there are particular challenges of inclusion, like lower levels of education, health, and income. Even in the countries with much more data on LGB people, like the U.S., the UK, and Canada, we have an enormous gap in knowledge about intersex and transgender people and their economic challenges.” 

What are the challenges in building data around LGBTQI economic and financial inclusion?

“There are some technical challenges with gathering survey data on an often-hidden group of people, but we already know a lot about how to solve those problems. The bigger challenge is generating the resources and will to gather data in government statistical agencies.  More funding from development banks, for example, could go a long way toward creating the capacity and willingness of governments, NGOs, and universities to get involved in collecting data.”

What do you think are the least focused on but important questions when doing research on LGBTQI economic and financial inclusion?

“In my view, we know the least about low-income, economically insecure LGBTQI people. Partly that’s because there’s a global stereotype – that’s wrong, by the way – that gay and lesbian people, in particular, are a relatively well-off group. As a result of that stereotype, people sometimes incorrectly assume there are no poor LGBTQI people, so we need more research and data to understand and address those challenges of the most marginalized parts of our communities. The other big task is using new data and evidence to show how exclusion of LGBTQI people hurts all of us by holding back our economies.  We need more data to make that case.”

What are the challenges in translating data/evidence to the goal of inclusion?

“Once we get the data, we need researchers who can analyze it and work with communities to understand what we’re seeing in the data. That sounds obvious, but often there aren’t researchers with experience studying LGBTQI people, so we need more capacity there. Then we have to get it to people in the policy world and tell the story about what the data are saying about the need for action. Data can help make the case that countries should stop discrimination and violence and allow LGBTQI people to organize so they can argue publicly for inclusion in every important social space – health care, politics, the workplace, etc.” 

What are the possible ways forward in maximizing data/information related to LGBTQI inclusion in contexts where there is criminalization and conservatism?

“In any kind of context we should be building relationships between LGBTQI community organizations and people who do research, whether in NGOs, companies, statistical agencies, development agencies, or universities. University researchers are easy to overlook as a resource, but a growing number of students and more experienced researchers want to study LGBTQI people and issues. Businesses serving the LGBTQI communities, like websites or dating sites, can be sources of data too. There could be regional partnerships between people from all of those sectors to generate ideas and strategies for gathering data in ways that are methodologically sound and still respect the privacy and safety of LGBTQI people living in all contexts, including more vulnerable situations.”