whswhs (whswhs) wrote,


When we started looking at places to move to, I came across a site with a table of nerd rankings. This was interesting in its own right, with a broad swath of un-nerdishness in the South and a cluster of un-nerdish states around New York City, contrasting with a band of nerdishness across the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains.

More recently, though, I had occasion to look at the Gini coefficients for income for U.S. states. The Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality: If everyone has the same income, it's 0, and if one person has all the income and everyone else has nothing, it's 1. As it happens, I don't have any ethical bias against inequality as such; if someone gets incredibly rich by providing goods and services that people want to pay for, their wealth is a measure of their virtue. But in our society, one of the things that wealth purchases is political favor; states with high inequality are likely to be governed according to the interests and biases of the very wealthy, and states with low inequality are likely to pay more attention to those of the middle strata—and these days C and I are in the middle. (There's also the use of political favor itself as a way of gaining still more wealth without actually doing anything that makes other people better off.)

So anyway, I took a look at the Gini coefficients for U.S. states, and found that the most unequal states were the core Democratic states, followed by the southern states: the Gini coefficient for the U.S. as a whole was exceeded in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, and New York, and in the District of Columbia, by far the most unequal place in the United States. At the other end, the most equal states were Utah and Alaska.

And that's when I said, "Huh!" Because those were also the two states with the highest nerd indices. And when I compared the two rankings, they looked surprisingly similar. So I did a very simple statistical measure, a 2x2 chi-squared distribution, upper half vs. lower half for each measure. And I came up with a measure of association so high that it fell off the right edge of the chi-squared table: There was far less than one chance in a thousand that so close an association could exist by pure chance.

Of course, correlation isn't causation. Does having a moderate income allow people to cultivate fannish interests? Do people without fannish interests have a higher probability of getting really rich? Do they gravitate to places where they can get rich, making fannish interests less prevalent there? Is there some third factor that influences both nerdishness and economic equality? I don't know. But it was an interesting and surprising discovery.
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