November 1, 2000
5:26 AM   Subscribe

The number one thing that correlates with a region's high-tech success is the concentration of gay people living there.
posted by sudama (25 comments total)
"Perhaps we're looking at places comparable to 17th-century Amsterdam at the time of Rembrandt and mercantilism--places that have figured out a way to translate open-mindedness and tolerance into economic dominance."
posted by sudama at 5:29 AM on November 1, 2000

I think the correlation is pretty easy.

Geeks tend to be more open-minded than your average person because we're exposed to more mind sets.

I mean, look at MeFi itself. There are people from all over the world, with different political mindsets, different personalities, who are interested in discussing and learning about each other. That's why we're here.

California and New York are probably the two largest immigration locales in North America also, which means a ton of people with different cultural practices, all in the same place. You just HAVE to be more open.

So we travel there. Geeks because we're weird fucking people who just don't jive with "the rest of society" for the most part, and gay people because, historically, they've been driven from the rest of society.

We go to places where there are people like us, or - and more importantly - different than us, but willing to listen to us and talk to us and learn from us and teach us.

Also, gay people tend to be more artistically inclined, and coding - as was pointed out in the article - can be (and is, when done properly IMHO) extremely artistic. It makes sense that we (straight geeks, because that's the only group here I'm willing to even try to speak for) want to associate with other creative people. And differently creative people, it can only open our ideas to new ways of seeing things.

So we have this core association with each other, we're social outcasts for whatever reason, we're by nature more open-minded and critical of closed thinking, so we seek each other out to learn from each other's differences, but are comfortable with each other because of our similarities.

What a tangle! :-) Hopefully I'm saying what I think I'm saying, somewhat clearly. :-)
posted by cCranium at 6:24 AM on November 1, 2000

I live in Pittsburgh, in fact I go to Carnegie Mellon. A very small percentage of undergraduates want to stay in Pittsburgh; everyone else wants to get the hell out of here.

Is that because of the lack of gay people? I sincerely doubt it.

A lot of people at CMU come from the NY/NJ area. Pittsburgh is a much smaller city than New York City, and can't compare on a cultural or social level. A lot of students from the NY/NJ area came to CMU expecting Pittsburgh to offer as much as NYC, as you can imagine they end up quite disappointed.

There are a few technological firms in Pittsburgh, but none are really compelling. If you want to work for exciting companies, you go to either coast (or Austin). This really hurts as far as keeping people in Pittsburgh.

If you're starting a company, why do it in Pittsburgh? You already know that most undergrads don't like it here, and there is a much bigger pool of talent elsewhere. Doesn't really make sense.

I'm not incredibly surprised that the correlation holds up, but I take it worth a grain of salt. Pittsburgh is a strange case, which has a lot confounding variables.

posted by fil! at 7:45 AM on November 1, 2000

Shesh people, it's the drinking water.
posted by alan at 8:00 AM on November 1, 2000

fil!, I don't think that the point of the article was that the concentration of gays/lesbians in certain areas makes geeks want to live and work there; rather, it seems to say that these two groups are looking for the some of the same attributes when searching for a place to live. A strong correlation still exists, it's just not (or may not be)a causal relationship. I'd definitely like to see this study brought down to the census tract level.
posted by Avogadro at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2000

fil!, you're making a common mistake: correlations are not necessarily commutative -- because A implies B doesn't mean that B implies A.

Actually, if this is true, then it's not a correlation in the first place; correlations *are* commutative, I was wrong.

If it's not commutative, then it *is* causation.
posted by baylink at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2000

Yes, but what other factors are correlated with gay-friendliness? The correlation could be because cities that are experiencing tech-sector success become gay-friendly: how much does the influx of nouveaux riche mindset contribute to increased tolerance?

Also: tech employment is so inherently dehumanizing that nobody cares about your sexuality as long as you're at your desk and writing code twelve hours a day.
posted by grimmelm at 9:07 AM on November 1, 2000

Yes, but what other factors are correlated with gay-friendliness?

good shoe stores.
posted by patricking at 9:30 AM on November 1, 2000

And lots and lots of fabulous brunch spots, an absolute must have.
posted by m.polo at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2000

It's pretty obvious that all the newly-rich geeks are creating a strong demand for internal decorators.
posted by kindall at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2000

Er. Interior. Gack!
posted by kindall at 10:38 AM on November 1, 2000

I want an internal decorator, damn it.
posted by s10pen at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2000

I think I'm going to misuse this statistic at every possible opportunity from now on. "If you want your city to be rich, powerful, and famous, invite lots of gay people to move in! Otherwise, all of us billionaire techies will stay the hell away..."

The correlation doesn't strike me as the least bit odd, but I don't have any more explanation for it than the researchers did. I guess it just seems like interesting people will try to find interesting cities to live in, and a city will become more attractive as more interesting people move in, accelerating the cycle. I would guess it's not cause and effect so much as a common (yet unexplained) cause bringing in both groups.

This, of course, leaves the definition of the term "interesting" up to the reader, and that's why I'm a random metafilter pundit and not a sociologist.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:00 AM on November 1, 2000

One thing that only a few here have recognized is that gay people mught actually be involved in the tech economy, part of it's growth and success in an area. We aren't just the geeks friends and the internal decorators. Isn't it funny how people still find it ok to associate certain people with occupations as long as it's still PC? I mean think about it, if we we're talking about mexicans here would you say that the geeks need someone to clean up after them? That made you mad didn't it? It must be nice to be part of a group that isn't so easily classified or pigeonholed.

Some of the comments here suggest that gay people just happen to be in the same regions and the geeks are so nice to put up with us (I love geeks BTW). I believe, in a way the internet economy is very socialized and a "trendy" (gasp) thing, we set the trends everywhere else, why not here too?
posted by brian at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2000

Fil!: People from NY/NJ will complain wherever they go. It's what they do. And I am glad to hear they don't want to settle in Pittsburgh. That's good news for the wonderful people who live and work in Pittsburgh.

Plus Pittsburgh has been voted one of America's "Most Livable Cities" And a few year's back it was listed as the most livable city in the United States. Missing from the list of livable cities? New York.
posted by terrapin at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2000

Gay and a techie, I always knew I didn't belong in Upstate New York ;-) FYI - The PC term these days is Interrior Designer.
posted by jaz at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2000

Midtown Atlanta has a high concentration of homosexuals and tech companies, but I think it's an ad hoc fallacy. The gay population is probably large because of the anti-gay hostility outside of Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia, and the high-tech companies came because of Ga. Tech and good wiring in most of the city, especially midtown.
posted by kidsplateusa at 12:03 PM on November 1, 2000

Of course, Southern Florida (especially South Beach) could be seen as "gay friendly" and you could probably count on one hand the number of high tech firms there...
posted by owillis at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2000

I understand the difference between causation and correlation. I was just adding my 2 cents as to why I think it's only a correlation.

Baylink, you're correct in saying that just because A implies B doesn't mean B implies A; however you're incorrect in that a correlation doesn't mean implication.

I just remembered this, and it's kinda funny I guess. The majority of the Bars in the Oakland (the part of town where both CMU and the University of Pittsburgh are) are in the area surrounding Pitt. There are two bars which are closer to CMU. PHI, which is where all the kids with Fakes go, and Holiday, a gay bar.

Terrapin: As I'm sure you know, Pittsburgh is losing population. There are a lot of programs aimed at keeping CMU grads (as well as Pitt grads) around ... that may require Yinzers putting up with some NJ/NY people :)
posted by fil! at 12:37 PM on November 1, 2000

California and New York are probably the two largest immigration locales in North America also, which means a ton of people with different cultural practices, all in the same place. You just HAVE to be more open

This is a good explanation of why both areas might have a larger gay population. But to take this a step further, I think the large immigrant population in these areas may have more to do with high-tech success than an area's "gayness" or "geekiness" or both.

Some of the most dedicated, tech-savvy, hard-working individuals I've met here in the Bay Area are immigrants. Now, I've met several gay individuals in the tech sector with the very same traits, but I would venture to say there are a higher number of immigrants in high-tech jobs than there are gays (I suppose gay immigrants could count double!).
posted by JAcrimonaut at 12:47 PM on November 1, 2000

That is terribly interesting.

If I’m not mistaken (and please correct me if I’m wrong) Portland, Oregon has the third largest gay population in the country and it isn’t even mentioned in the article. On the other hand, Intel is there.

posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:55 PM on November 1, 2000

Lots of cities are losing population, Fil! And it is especially not unusual for Pittsburgh to be losing people as the types of jobs change. In the mid-80s people said Pittsburgh was dead due to the dying steel industry, but it has redefined itself. Washington, DC—where I live—is changing too. Beautiful old, but rundown, rowhouses in neighborhoods that used to be considered dangerous are now being gobbled up by people moving from the suburbs to the city. And in many cases those leading the way into the so-called dangerous neighborhoods are those in the gay community. I know people who house hunt by looking for rainbow flags. If they see them they want to buy in that area whether their gay or not. :)

Go Steelers! (who beat the New Jersey ... errr York Jets)
posted by terrapin at 12:57 PM on November 1, 2000

I have in fact noticed that geeks are much more accepting of gays, lesbians, transsexuals, etc. in our community than the public at large seems to be. Maybe this is simply because of a general affinity of one "misfit" for another. Or maybe we just grew up reading enough "alternative" sexuality in science fiction novels that mere homosexuality seems, well, tame. John Varley novels, where characters regularly change from male to female and back, according to their whims -- now that's kinda out there.
posted by kindall at 5:12 PM on November 1, 2000

One part of it is that "hacker ethic" thing (see jargon file) of evaluating people solely on their abilities and not caring much about anything else. You can bring up Apache in your sleep? Cool. You sleep with guys? So what?
posted by dhartung at 8:33 PM on November 1, 2000

It's also exposure to the different people, sexuality, skin colour, whatever, and the realisation that I liked someone before I knew anything about them other than they were good conversationalists.

I mean, I know very little about most of the people here, but I like talking with the vast majority of you. I don't give a damn whether you're gay, or black, or sleep upside down and drink blood.

Err... just so long as it's not mine, that is.

There's so much more to admire about a person than something so trivial as gender or sexuality, or race, or anything. Whipdeedoo.

Those of us that have been connected for more than a year have all probably encountered someone with some "secret" about themselves that we didn't realize until we already knew they were our friend. Once something like that happens, we realize that something as stupid as any prejudice will only limit our chances to meet other interesting people.
posted by cCranium at 6:07 AM on November 2, 2000

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