Diversity and tolerance are good because they’re inherently righteous and because people’s lives have value. But at this time of growing understanding, it’s also worth considering that diversity and tolerance have significant, quantifiable economic benefits on entire communities.
Today, the video below began making the rounds in Utah and elsewhere. It’s called “It Gets Better at Brigham Young University” and is about gay students at BYU. It’s incredibly poignant, especially toward the end.
I recommend watching the video simply for it’s own sake. The people who appear in it are courageous and things are getting better because of them.
But no matter what we individually think, there’s a strong economic justification for welcoming, bolstering, and encouraging acceptance of groups — such as Provo’s gay community, as well as ethnic and religious minorities — that might traditionally have been marginalized.
Specifically, this article by Richard Florida argues that if cities want to sustain their economic growth, they need to welcome diversity:
But a growing number of studies, including my own research, suggest that geographic proximity and cultural diversity—a place’s openness to different cultures, religions, sexual orientations—also play key roles in economic growth.
A few paragraphs later, the article adds,
To put it in plain English: diversity spurs economic development and homogeneity slows it down.
Even more specifically, Eric Jaffe argues here that gay households in a neighborhood can actually raise home prices, though the effects correlate with how tolerant the neighborhood already is.
In another (very lengthy) article from Next American City, Florida also addresses critics of these ideas:
This line of criticism implies that a place must either be family-friendly or gay-and-bohemian-friendly, but can’t be both. This is divisive thinking; it’s also inaccurate.
He later writes that,
Our work finds that places open to immigrants, artists, and gays, and which are less segregated, do best. These places mobilize existing creative energy in their cities and attract creative energy from outside by allowing people to be themselves and validate their identities. In doing so, such places capture a disproportionate share of the flow. Subsequent research has confirmed that these findings hold true not only in America, but also in Canada and Australia.
Provo and Utah County struggle with diversity at times, though the video above suggests that the regional culture is changing and improving. And as I indicated at the beginning of this post, we shouldn’t need an economic justification to be good, loving people. We should just do it.
But for those who may not quite yet have the vision of how much richer it can be to live in a diverse city, these economic arguements add clarity and understanding. They help us see that differing values, attitudes, or lifestyles can not only co-exist, but also result in more prosperity for everyone.