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Report: North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law puts at risk billions of dollars, hundreds of jobs

If the loss in reputation, outright bigotry, and business boycotts aren't enough to get North Carolina to reconsider its anti-LGBTQ law, maybe it should consider this number: $5 billion.

That's how much money the state has put at risk with its law, according to a report by the Williams Institute, a think tank focused on LGBTQ issues.

The institute breaks down the money the state has put at risk — but hasn't in all cases lost yet — as follows:

  1. Federal funding: "The loss of $4.8 billion in federal grants and contracts, primarily from the loss of $4.7 billion in funding for schools, colleges, and universities."
  2. Business investment: "The loss of over $40 million in business investment that has already been withdrawn from the state, resulting in a loss of over 1,250 jobs, and the risk of losing over $20 million more in business investment and 550 more jobs."
  3. Travel and tourism: "The loss of travel, tourism, conference, and event spending that would have supported jobs in the state and generated state and local tax revenue."
  4. Litigation and enforcement costs: "Significant costs in defending litigation and enforcement actions for violating federal non-discrimination laws, and paying for settlements or any damages that are determined."
  5. Productivity: "Research shows that a poor legal and social climate can mean that LGBT workers are less likely to be out at work and more likely to be distracted, disengaged, or absent, and to be less productive. These outcomes could lead to economic losses for state and local governments, as employers, and private businesses in the state. Since North Carolina, through its agencies and universities, is one of the largest employers in the state, with over 126,000 employees, its own loss in productivity from a discriminatory environment is significant."
  6. Retention: "Research shows that when LGBT workers are in less supportive work environments, they feel less loyal to their employers and more likely to leave. Given the average replacement costs of an employee, public and private employers risk losing $8,800 on average for each LGBT employee that leaves the state or changes jobs because of the negative environment that HB2 helps to create."
  7. Recruitment: "Research shows that many LGBT and non-LGBT workers, in particular those who are younger and more highly educated, prefer to work for companies with more supportive policies, and in states with more supportive laws. Over 60% of North Carolina voters already feel that HB2 has hurt the state’s image with the rest of the U.S., making it harder for public and private employers to attract the best and brightest."
  8. Education: "North Carolina is home to more than 86,000 LGBTQ youth including more than 15,600 transgender youth. More than a third of LGBQ high school students in the state report being bullied in the past year and over 41% report seriously considering suicide. HB2 makes a challenging environment even more difficult for LGBTQ youth. When LGBTQ students miss or drop out of school, become homeless, or unemployed or underemployed — these are outcomes which are harmful not only to them, but their future contributions to the economy."
  9. Economic: "A number of surveys document that LGBT people continue to face discrimination in North Carolina that affects their jobs, incomes, food security, housing and health care. For example, data from North Carolina respondents to a national survey of transgender people shows that over three-fourths report workplace harassment or mistreatment, over half report being harassed in a place of public accommodation, 1 in 5 report being denied a home or an apartment, and 1 in 8 report losing a job because of their gender identity. We estimate that discrimination in the workplace and in housing against transgender people annually costs North Carolina approximately $227,000 in state Medicaid expenditures and $345,000 in housing program expenditures."
  10. Health: "Research indicates that the lack of legal protections and a less favorable social climate for LGBT people, such as what is unfolding in North Carolina, is contributing to health disparities such as major depressive disorder and substance abuse. Research also supports that laws like HB2, and the public debate about it, are exacerbating these health disparities. If North Carolina were to move towards acceptance of LGBT people, it would decrease these health disparities. When just considering the impact of one condition — major depressive disorder — we estimate that the move toward inclusion could eventually benefit the state by $92 to $123 million in greater productivity and reduced health care costs each year."

Most of the financial cost comes from the potential loss in federal funding. Whether that actually sticks will be decided in court. It's what the legal battle between the US Department of Justice and state officials is all about, as federal officials claim that the state's anti-LGBTQ law violates federal civil rights protections and, therefore, puts it at risk of losing federal funding.

Still, it's hard to imagine anyone is willing to risk $5 billion. The lawmakers who imposed this law on North Carolina may be the most homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted people on the planet, but even they should worry about how this legislation will bleed over into issues voters really care about, particularly jobs and the economy.

They now need to consider: Is banning transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice in schools and government buildings and stopping local nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people really worth $5 billion a year?

For more on North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law, read Vox's explainer.