What Aspects of Society Matter for the Quality of Life of a Minority? Global Evidence from the New Gay Happiness Index
There is great variation in views on and treatment of minorities such as gay men across the world. We are the first to pinpoint what features of societies are beneficial to gay men’s quality of life by using a unique new cross-country dataset covering 110 countries, the Gay Happiness Index. It covers how gays perceive public opinion about them, how they experience behavior towards them and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our study is based on the premise that it is important to look at minority-specific effects of policies and institutions and not solely at the effects for the average citizen, as well as the transmission mechanisms through which policies and institutions affect life satisfaction. We find that factors such as equal legal rights for gay people, GDP per capita, democracy and globalization relate positively to the quality of life of gay men, primarily by shaping public opinion and behavior in a pro-gay direction. Religion (the shares of Muslims and Orthodox Christians) and living in a post-communist country tend to relate negatively to our quality of life indicators. Most of these factors have been shown to matter for the well-being of people in general as well, which may be taken to suggest that gay people benefit from being included in society—legally, socially and economically—on the same terms as others.