Monday, November 15, 2010

Pooling and Separating Equilibria In Cool Places to Live

These days, areas predominantly populated by gay people tend to be the cool parts of town (The Castro in San Francisco, Boystown in Chicago, West LA) but they never seem to stay as gay areas for very long. The problem is that trendy yuppies  want to live where gay people live, because those areas have all the good restaurants, bars, and a generally fun vibe. Hordes of yuppies flow in, and quickly destroy the hip gay vibe that made the area attractive in the first place. Gay people can try to co-ordinate to live somewhere else (Andersonville in Chicago, for instance), but this can only delay the effect of the yuppies moving there too.In economics, this is known as a pooling equilibrium - gay people would rather not hang out with yuppies, but they end up pooled together because the yuppies will follow them where they go. They can't set up circumstances where the yuppies will voluntarily separate out, and can't make an actual requirement to be gay to live somewhere without likely violating exactly the same housing laws designed to protect them from discrimination.

[Edit: The people who really benefit from this pooling equilibrium are of course gay yuppies, who get the best of both worlds]

Compare this with the separating equilibrium you get between unwashed hippies and the same yuppies. Venice Beach, for instance, manages to keep most of its, ahem, "Bohemian" atmosphere for long periods of time. This is because while the yuppies may enjoy going down there every now and then to get "medication" for their "glaucoma" and soak up the ambience, nobody really wants to live in a place where there's a real risk that a homeless man might take a $#@% on your very expensive doorstep during the night. So the place is populated by tourists and unwashed vagrants during the day, and just the unwashed vagrants during the night (and the rich aging hippies who can afford the houses nearby, but enjoy the freakshow that is Venice). Yuppies, by and large, live elsewhere.

Maybe gay people could learn from the hippies and bathe less. That might finally drive off the yuppies and restore the separating equilibrium!

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