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The focus of discussions surrounding anti-LGBTQ laws tends to remain on their impact on the marginalized community, domestically and globally. However, it is crucial to consider the broader consequences of such discriminatory legislation. While the harm inflicted on those targeted is undeniable, it is worth examining the cost of these laws for society, whether at a state or national level. Furthermore, the victimizers may perpetuate a harmful cyclic relationship with the LGBTQ community, which could further suppress their very own economic opportunities.


The World Population Review provides metrics for tracking laws impacting sexual orientation and gender identity globally. Our World in Data offers data on extreme poverty by country. Combining the two allows examination of the relationship between the Global Acceptance Index (GAI) and extreme poverty.

In an Al Jazeera article from June of 2021, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath recounts the challenges faced by a transgender activist in Zimbabwe. The piece highlights the negative impact of anti-LGBTQ laws on economies and worker productivity. Due to anti-LGBTQ laws and discrimination, Gottbrath notes that economies can suffer up to one percent of their total economic output, as measured by annual gross domestic product (GDP). On the other hand, countries with protective LGBTQ laws correlate with stronger economies and higher worker productivity. 

Author Chad de Guzman wrote a compelling article for Time in July of 2023 about the economic consequences of anti-LGBTQ laws. In the article, De Guzman highlighted the negative impact of harmful laws on foreign investment and tourism. Using Uganda as an example, the piece demonstrated how anti-LGBTQ laws run counter to business interests, ultimately affecting the entire country. On the other hand, protective LGBTQ laws can attract business investment and tourism, benefiting everyone involved. 

Comparatively, South Africa has the highest Global Acceptance Index (GAI) score in Africa at 6.01 and an extreme poverty rate of 20.48%. Uganda has a GAI of 3.63 and an extreme poverty rate of 42.21%, while Zimbabwe has a GAI of 1.57 and an extreme poverty rate of 39.75%.

North America

To put the United States into context, looking at GAI and extreme poverty compared to Canada and Mexico is a good starting point. Canada leads the way with a GAI of 9.02 and an extreme poverty rate of .25%. The United States follows with a GAI of 7.42 and an extreme poverty rate of 1%. Mexico has the lowest GAI score of 6.5 and an extreme poverty rate of 3.1%. 

United States

When examining the prevalence of harmful policies targeting the LGBTQ community at the state level in the United States, it can be helpful to consider economic factors such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and poverty levels. By comparing data from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) from 2023 on current laws and policies concerning sexual orientation and gender identity with state-by-state poverty data from American Progress and GDP per capita data from Wise Voter, we can gain insight into how protective or harmful laws may relate to these economic indicators. The following comparison provides a snapshot of small, medium, and large states.

Minnesota VS Indiana

Minnesota has consistently ranked high in the MAP system, boasting an impressive score of 36. Regarding the poverty level, the state is third in the nation with only 9.3%. Minnesota’s GDP per capita is also noteworthy, sitting at $75,234. On the other hand, Indiana’s MAP score is comparatively low at -1. The state’s poverty level is 12.2%, ranking 27th in the nation. Furthermore, Indiana’s GDP per capita is $64,357.

Washington VS Arizona

Regarding MAP rankings, Washington stands out with a score of 38.25, placing it high on the list. Its poverty level is also impressively low, ranking 5th at just 9.9%. Furthermore, the state’s GDP per capita is a notable $90,034. On the other hand, Arizona’s MAP score is low at only 6, placing it towards the bottom of the list. Its poverty level is also higher than Washington’s, ranking at 32nd in the nation with a rate of 12.8%. Arizona’s GDP per capita is $59,071, just 65% of Washington’s.

California VS Texas

California has a strong MAP score of 43 and a poverty level of 12.3%, which ranks 30th in the nation. California’s GDP per capita is also impressive at $89,540. Compare these scores to Texas, with a MAP score of -1 and a poverty rate of 14.2%, ranking 41st in the nation. Texas’ GDP per capita is $71,274.

Everyone pays the full cost of hate.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but societies must study consistent trends. Based on the data presented above, it is apparent that safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ individuals benefits not only this vulnerable group but potentially the entire state’s population by reducing poverty rates and increasing GDP per capita. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone once famously stated, “We all do better when we all do better.” Conversely, states with discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community will likely harm this marginalized group and potentially negatively impact the entire state’s population by increasing poverty rates and reducing GDP per capita. It’s vital for politicians who promote cultural war issues to recognize that cultural and economic rights are intertwined. Protective policies typically safeguard cultural and economic rights, while harmful policies tend to have adverse effects on both. Examining the correlation between discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community and their economic impact makes it clear that, unfortunately, we all do worse when we all do worse.

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