What do sexual orientation and gender identity have to do with financial services? I first thought about this question a few years ago when listening to an episode of the popular podcast Freakonomics. The episode, titled “Are Gay Men Really Rich?,” vividly examined a popular assumption that gets promptly dismissed with fascinating data and research. For example, one common assumption is that same-sex couples mostly inhabit the lucrative “double income, no kids” category. However, data paint a more nuanced view with same-sex couples reporting higher levels of poverty than heterosexual couples. This question, together with recent national attention to same-sex marriage and transgender rights, got us thinking about this topic in the context of credit unions.
The idea simmered until the Filene Research Institute was introduced to a group of entrepreneurs attempting to form a new credit union (Equality Washington) around the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. What does the increasing visibility and mainstreaming of the LGBT community mean for credit unions?