December 26, 2008
The great gay migration
Posted by: Chris
I've spent a lot of time this year back in Memphis, where I grew up, and I'm struck how over holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the city's gay establishments swell with locals like me who got the hell outta Dodge after graduating high school or college. The reasons are obvious enough to us, but bit by bit "those who stayed" are beginning to clue in.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal documented "the great taxpayer migration" in an article last week:
An analysis of tax-return data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service showed that in Memphis, upward mobility often translates into outward mobility. The total income of people leaving the area outstrips the pay of those moving in by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to the data.
That has led to a substantial -- and accelerating -- hemorrhaging of wealth, bringing ominous portents for the economy, tax base and even quality of life for the entire region.
That's only counting the impact of folks who were already in the workforce and moved on to greener pastures. If you add in those of us who left for college or just afterward, the net loss to cities like Memphis would be further multiplied.
The beneficiaries aren't just bigger cities, but those without the cultural and political baggage of racism and homophobia. Dallas-Fort Worth was one of the top beneficiaries of the exodus out of Memphis, but the No. 1 destination was Nashville, a city that's slightly smaller in population but with better race relations, a much more active and engaged gay community and a lower "redneck ratio."
The evidence isn't just anecdotal, either. Using Census data from 1990, the Brookings Institute constructed a number of different "indices" based on population categories and looked for patterns among the best and worst performers among the nation's top 50 cities. The results should not surprise you:
Perhaps our most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area's high-technology success is a large gay population. Frequently cited as a harbinger of redevelopment and gentrification in distressed urban neighborhoods, the presence of gays in a metro area signals a diverse and progressive environment and provides a barometer for a broad spectrum of amenities attractive to adults, especially those without children. …
Eleven of the top 15 high-tech metropolitan areas also appear in the top 15 of the gay index. The five metro areas with the highest concentration of gay residents — San Francisco, Washington, Austin, Atlanta, and San Diego — are all among the nation's top 15 high-tech areas. …
The gay index is positively and significantly associated with the ability of a region both to attract talent and to generate high-tech industry.
And just in case you thought San Francisco -- known for Silicon Valley and the Castro -- was unfairly weighting the data, the "gay index" was even more closely associated with high-tech success without S.F. included. Studies like this are part of what convinced the city of Cincinnati to rescind its anti-gay ordinance a few years back. And if this follows other trends, Memphis will clue in sometime before the turn of the next century…
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