Just As I Thought

Gay-tolerant societies prosper economically

This Richard Florida Op-Ed in USA Today is an eye-opener and gives reasons for an inclusive society that I never would have thought of – economics.

If you object to homosexuality on moral grounds, as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., recently did in an interview, you may not be swayed by economic arguments. But if you are a fan of entrepreneurship and business growth, you should know the economic price of intolerance.

The key to understanding America’s technological and economic vibrancy lies in our openness to new people and ideas. Tolerance of immigrants, gays and other minorities is much more important to sustained economic growth and the high-paying jobs than the tax cut President Bush has in mind.

Research I conducted with Gary Gates, an Urban Institute demographer, shows that the big new-ideas and cutting-edge industries that lead to sustained prosperity are more likely to exist where gay people feel welcome. Most centers of tech-based business growth also have the highest concentrations of gay couples. Conversely, major areas with relatively few gay couples tend to be slow- or no-growth places. Pittsburgh and Buffalo, which have low percentages of gay couples, were two of only three major regions to lose population from 1990 to 2000.

Innovation and overall regional economic vitality also are closely associated with the presence of gays and other indicators of tolerance and diversity, such as the percentage of immigrants and the level of racial and ethnic integration.

Why? Creative, innovative and entrepreneurial activities tend to flourish in the same kinds of places that attract gays and others outside the norm. To put it bluntly, a place where it’s OK for men to walk down the street holding hands will probably also be a place where Indian engineers, tattooed software geeks and foreign-born entrepreneurs feel at home. When people from varied backgrounds, places and attitudes can collide, economic home runs are likely.

…Diversity and tolerance make smart business sense. Even the Big Three automakers know this. They’re among the thousands of firms offering same-sex partner benefits. May I suggest that what’s good for General Motors is good for America?

Richard Florida is the author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Heinz Professor of Regional Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University.

1 comment

  • OK… where’s the Twilight Zone theme music?

    I also posted tonight about Florida’s Creative Class Theory, as it was noted on All Things Considered this evening in a segment about a real estate developer advertising in Detroit gay newspapers to try to attract gay people to its properties, in the hopes of engaging them in the revitalization of Detroit’s downtown.

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