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Problematic Survey Claims Chicago Isn't Very Gay

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Jul 21, 2010 5:40PM

Photo by chloeloe
Chicago seemingly got the shaft in a Daily Beast piece published yesterday and misleadingly titled: "America's Top 20 Gayest Cities," but given the piece's problematic focus on only one of any number of metrics of queer life, we wouldn't take it too much to heart. The piece, written by professional list-maker Richard Florida, bases its rankings of gay cities solely on the proportion of same-sex couples among all households of a metropolitan area relative to the average of the entire U.S., per responses to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey. The result: A Windy City-less Top 20, as locales like San Francisco, Portland, Maine and Boston topped the list.

So why didn't Chicago make the cut? It's hard to say, exactly, since we can't locate the primary research Florida cites in his piece anywhere on the UCLA School of Law's site, but looking to a similar survey based on the 2006 "mini-census," the Windy City ranked only 23rd there, too, with only 5.7 percent of households in the city being headed by a queer couple. But that same survey estimated Chicago was home to the third-largest gay and lesbian community - higher than San Francisco. Florida's report ignores LGBT people who are not coupled and - by his own admission - is based on such a small and limited sample size that its findings shouldn't be touted as gospel.

"Very few demographic or economic-oriented surveys ask about sexual orientation or gender identity; sample sizes in those few that do are too small to reliably estimate the size of LGBT populations in states, metros, and cities," Florida writes. "Even the same-sex couple data used here presents challenges, as noted above."

And yet, Florida still chose to publish a piece based on a flawed design and perpetuating stereotypes of the economically privileged LGBT community - that gays bring with them "higher economic performance" and a "more affluent 'post-materialist' political culture" - even as his own previous research has argued poverty rates among LGB adults are "as high or higher than heterosexual adults."

Florida's report be damned, Chicago is consistently ranked in the top five by Community Marketing's Gay and Lesbian Tourism Survey, which allows travelers to rank American cities for their gay-friendliness. With our raucously rainbow-infused annual Pride, the annual International Mr. Leather, and a robust local queer scene, we know in our hearts Chicago is here and queer to stay. But could we stand to swish it up a bit more?