Monday, December 09, 2013

NYT: Clear Geographic Correlation Between Tolerance And Open Homosexuality

There is an interesting report published in the New York Times on the correlation between how "tolerant" a state or geographic region and the fraction of men who are willing to be open (and honest) about same-sex sexual attraction. The study was conducted by Harvard Economics Ph.D. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz who previously made news by analyzing Google searches to demonstrate a negative correlation between racist  searches (or searches for "racially charged terms") and voting rates for Barack Obama for President in 2008.

Now, Dr. Stephens-Davidowitz is back and he is analyzing Google searches to demonstrate that even though approximately 5% of men have same-sex attraction (as evidenced by their searches for pornographic or sexual material on the web) in areas where marriage equality or LGBT rights are disfavored the percentage of people who reveal their homosexuality or bisexuality in social media substantially decreases.

In "How Many American Men Are Gay?" Stephens-Davidowitz says:
Using surveys, social networks, pornographic searches and dating sites, I recently studied evidence on the number of gay men. The data used in this analysis is available in highly aggregated form only and can be downloaded from publicly accessible sites. While none of these data sources are ideal, they combine to tell a consistent story. 
At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women. 
There are three sources that can give us estimates of the openly gay population broken down by state: the census, which asks about same-sex households; Gallup, which has fairly large-sample surveys for every state; and Facebook, which asks members what gender they are interested in. While these data sources all measure different degrees of openness, one result is strikingly similar: All three suggest that the openly gay population is dramatically higher in more tolerant states, defined using an estimate by Nate Silver of support for same-sex marriage. On Facebook, for example, about 1 percent of men in Mississippi who list a gender preference say that they are interested in men; in California, more than 3 percent do.
Of course the question of what fraction of the population if LGB is a recurring one, for social science researchers and activists alike. As I have mentioned previously, many researchers seem to think the typical number is in the 3-5% range.

What is disturbing about the new analysis from Stephens-Davidowitz is that it also indicates that many of the closeted gay men in less tolerant areas are masking their sexuality by involving women. This is unsurprising since one would presume in areas that are oppressively religious with tendencies towards compulsory heterosexuality the norm, what options are there for the man with hidden same-sex sexual attractions?

It is also encouraging in some sense, because it demonstrates, as activists have been saying, "We are everywhere" and that, eventually, LGBT equality will be everywhere as well, since wherever there are LGBT people, they will need to have access to full civil rights as well. Yes, even in Mississippi.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God 

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