The Importance of Tolerance

Richard Florida has written that tolerance is one of the keys for economic growth. This week, he released an updated list and article detailing the most tolerant metro areas in the nation. No Utah cities made it into the top 20.

That’s a problem because, as Florida’s writing consistently argues, the most tolerant places are the most economically vibrant:

Tolerance  –  and openness to diversity and inclusiveness – is not an afterthought or something that happens when communities get rich. It is a key element of the new economic development equation.

Florida’s team defines tolerance by looking at three factors:

[…] the share of immigrants or foreign-born residents, the Gay Index (the concentration of gays and lesbians), and the Integration Index, which tracks the level of segregation between ethnic and racial groups.

He goes on to point out that the most prosperous cities have historically been those that welcomed hard-working immigrants of all stripes. Perhaps more relevantly to Utah, openness to gays also matters for the prosperity of a region:

Openness to gays and lesbians similarly reflects an ecosystem that is open to new people and new ideas. […] Accordingly, communities that have long been more accepting and open to gay people have an underlying ecosystem which is also more likely to be accepting of new ideas and different types of people, including the eggheads and eccentrics who invent new things and start new enterprises. As Bill Bishop put it, “where gay households abound, geeks follow.”

I’m going to avoid a diagnostic of the state of tolerance in Utah — you can decide how well you think the community embraces diversity — and instead I’ll simply point out that Florida’s research suggests a need for more of it throughout the state. That includes Utah County and Provo. That also supports assertions I previously made in this post.

And while I think that tolerance is something we should embrace simply on principle, this information shows that it will actually lead to greater prosperity for all community members.


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