New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds average levels of acceptance for LGBT people and rights have increased globally since 1980, though acceptance has become more polarized, increasing in the most accepting countries and decreasing in the least.
In a series of new studies, researchers developed and utilized a groundbreaking new measure of LGBT inclusion, called the Global Acceptance Index, which ranked 141 countries on their relative level of social acceptance of LGBT people and rights. LGBT acceptance refers to social beliefs about LGBT people as well as the prevailing opinion about laws and policies that protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination and promote their equality and well-being.
“Very few surveys conducted about LGBT people and issues provide sufficient data for global, cross-national comparisons of public opinion about LGBT people and rights,” said lead author Andrew R. Flores, visiting scholar at the Williams Institute. “The Global Acceptance Index provides a consistent and comparable way to measure attitudes and attitude change, which could better understand inclusion of LGBT people in many areas of social, economic, and political life.”
In Polarized Progress: Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 141 Countries, researchers analyzed findings from 11 cross-national, global and regional surveys and found that 80 countries (57%) experienced increases in acceptance. Forty-six countries (33%) experienced a decline in acceptance and 15 countries (11%) were unchanged. The analysis showed that the most accepting countries were Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Andorra; they were also the countries with the greatest increase in LGBT acceptance since 1980. Conversely, the analysis showed that the least accepting countries have become less accepting over time.
Two additional studies used the Global Acceptance Index to analyze the effects of LGBT acceptance and inclusion. Examining the Relationship between Social Acceptance of LGBT People and Legal Inclusion of Sexual Minorities found that democracies with a commitment to a free press and the rule of law had the strongest relationship. However, the relationship between acceptance and legal inclusion becomes weaker in shrinking civic spaces, such as autocracies and anocracies.
A third study, Links between Economic Development and New Measures of LGBT Inclusion, tested previous findings that linked inclusion of LGBT people to a country’s economic performance. Researchers used three new measures of LGBT inclusion: the Global Acceptance Index, the Legal Count Index, which tallies the number of LGBT-supportive laws in a country, and the Legal Environment Index, which measures the patterns of adoption of laws. All three measures showed a positive correlation between LGBT inclusion and GDP per capita.
Key findings include
- The Legal Count Index: Having one additional legal right was associated with an increase of $1,694 in GDP per capita.
- Countries with the most inclusive Legal Environment Index showed a statistically significant addition of $8,259 in GDP per capita.
- A one-point increase in the Global Acceptance Index was associated with an increase in GDP per capita of $1,506.
- The legal measures appeared to be stronger predictors than social acceptance.
- Legal rights and social acceptance may be stronger predictors of GDP per capita when combined than when they are alone.
“Social and legal inclusion has implications for global economic development policies,” said lead author M.V. Lee Badgett, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Programs that reduce violence, stigma and discrimination against LGBT people and policies that enhance access to education and health care will allow LGBT people the opportunity to realize their full economic potential, which will benefit the overall economy.”
These reports were produced as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Global Development Partnership. The Partnership was founded in 2012 and brings together the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Arcus Foundation, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights (RFSL), and other corporate, non-profit, and non-governmental organization resource partners.