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Brazil, Canada and Australia have some of the lowest homophobia rates in the world

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That above chart is from The Atlantic Cities; as you may know, the Sochi Winter Olympics begin this evening, and Russia hasn’t exactly been the friendliest of places for homosexuals leading up to the Games. If you look at the map, red and orange would be “bad” colors here — depending on your own view of homosexuals, I guess — and the greens would be “good,” i.e. more tolerance. This map is probably largely as you expect: Africa and most of Asia is red (low tolerance) and North America is pretty solidly high tolerance (this is off the 2012 Gallup World Poll, which utilizes 140+ countries). There’s another poll, from Pew, that polled about 40 countries. Here’s the big takeaway from that:

Just 16 percent of Russians surveyed by the Pew Research Center this spring said society should accept homosexuality (with nearly three-quarters saying it should not). In contrast, 60 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Canadians, and nearly 90 percent of Germans and Spaniards said society should accept homosexuality. The least tolerant attitudes toward gay and lesbian people, according to the Pew survey, were found in less developed nations in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

So now we come to the central issue: what’s the relationship between the economic advancement (or not) of a country and their attitudes towards homosexuality? Well, here we go.

Gay2

Basically, this is a pretty clear, linear relationship. There’s a strong connection between attitude towards homosexuality and economic output per person. Here’s the “Ah, there’s the rub” paragraph:

Attitudes towards gay and lesbian people are associated with a wide range of other indicators of economic and social progress: level of entrepreneurship (.69), overall well-being and life satisfaction (.72), human development (.55), and urbanization (.56), according to Mellander’s analysis. Nations that are more tolerant of gays and lesbians also tend to have less corruption and more freedom and greater gender equality.

There is a cart-horse element to this discussion, though: as countries become more economically viable, they attract a different type of individual (look at Silicon Valley, for example; a good portion of companies founded there have a non-U.S.-born person on the core team). So did the economic growth create the tolerant attitudes, or did the tolerant attitudes arrive with the economic growth? Chicken/egg, cart/horse, etc. This is a good paper on that topic.

The situation with openly-gay athletes at the Olympics should be interesting, as should the entire spectacle, really … and remember, Russia is cued up for another turn on the world stage in 2018 as well (World Cup).

Ted Bauer

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