A recently-released study by Chris Wienke of Southern Illinois University and Gretchen J. Hill of Arkansas State University goes against the conventional wisdom that gays and lesbians are happier when they move to large metropolitan areas:
There’s a common perception that gays and lesbians who live in rural communities aren’t as happy as their counterparts living in major cities, researchers say. But a new study shows rural gays and lesbians may have a better quality of life by some measurements than those living in the nation's largest metropolitan areas.
Chris Wienke of Southern Illinois University and Gretchen J. Hill of Arkansas State University looked at the well being of gays and lesbians living across the urban-rural continuum – from the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, to midsized cities, suburbs, small cities and rural areas.
What they found contradicts conventional wisdom that large urban areas are better places for gays and lesbians to live.
The authors said the results were somewhat unexpected:This has generally been my experience. I moved to rural Eastern Ontario 25 years ago from Toronto. I came out relatively late in life (in my late 40s) and in the midst of the emotional turmoil I convinced myself that I could not be gay in a rural area and that I would have to move to a city to be around "my people". When I pulled myself together I decided that my job, my 120 year old Victorian house that I bought for a fraction of what a house in Toronto costs and the beautiful countryside that I lived in were worth sticking around for. I think I'm better for it. I met my partner a few years later - he lives in a city not too far away and we have a fulfilling long-distance relationship that I think combines the best of both worlds. It's turned out pretty well all in all.
“The finding that gay residents living in the largest cities experience a relatively low level of wellbeing is a bit a surprising. After all, many of the best-known meccas of gay life in the United States are located in major cities, including Greenwich Village in New York, the Castro in San Francisco, West Hollywood in Los Angeles and Boys Town in Chicago.”
The authors theorized that any advantage that comes from living in large cities also comes with a price. “It may be that the benefits of living in extremely large cities are exceeded by the costs,” they wrote. “For gay people, large cities tend to provide more social-networking opportunities, more social and institutional supports and more tolerant social climates. Yet, they also typically have more noise, pollution, traffic, crime and ethnic conflict – stressors that tend to erode wellbeing. Other drawbacks of urban life may include high taxes, inferior public schools, substandard housing and a relatively high cost of living.”