A study of lesbian, gay and bisexual couples in America has suggested that they are as likely, or more likely, to be living in poverty as straight couples.

The research, from the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles, studied data from the 2000 census, the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth and the 2003 and 2005 California Health Interview surveys.

It found that 24 per cent of lesbians and bisexual women are poor, while 19 per cent of heterosexual women experience poverty. Around 15 per cent of gay and bisexual men are living in poverty, compared to 13 percent of heterosexual males.

Study author MV Lee Badgett contended that same-sex partners are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts because they lack access to safety nets such as a spouse’s health insurance coverage and Social Security survivor benefits.

However, the study looked only at lesbian, gay and bisexual couples, rather than individuals.

Badgett said that they focused on couples and not singles because most nationwide surveys do not ask about sexual orientation, instead asking about marital status.

According to USA Today, a poverty scholar from the conservative Heritage Foundation dismissed the study as “garbage” because its methodology does not compare LGB individuals with those such as single mothers, who are typically a larger poverty group.