Mostly, yes, although with some caveats (the headline of the piece doesn’t exactly capture this). That is the topic of my latest column for The Upshot. Here is one excerpt:
Niclas Berggren…and Therese Nilsson…have produced a fascinating series of papers on these questions, sometimes writing singly, sometimes together or with the collaboration of a variety of co-authors. Their most notable study is perhaps a paper they wrote together, “Does Economic Freedom Foster Tolerance?”
…One of their most striking findings is that societies characterized by greater economic freedom and greater wealth do indeed exhibit greater tolerance toward gay people, a tendency suggesting that gay rights, including gay marriage, will spread globally as national economies liberalize and develop.
Some metrics of economic freedom count more than others:
This greater tolerance is strongly associated only with certain features of what has often been defined as economic freedom. For example, a smaller government, measured as a share of gross domestic product, is often included in so-called economic freedom indexes as an objective measure of freedom. But the data show that smaller government has a slight negative correlation with tolerance of gay people by heterosexuals. One implication is that many conservatives may be overly preoccupied with the size of government as a measure of how free societies actually are.
On the other hand, the data shows that when a society has impressive scores on property rights security and low inflation — two other components of economic freedom indexes — these characteristics are strongly and positively correlated with tolerance of gays. It’s possible that low inflation, and the behavior of a central bank, are stand-ins for the general trustworthiness of a nation’s government and broader institutions, and such trustworthiness helps foster tolerance.
The results for race are not nearly as strong, namely both freedom and prosperity are less clearly associated with higher levels of racial tolerance, although the correlation is still a positive one.
And there is this:
We are often told that education is an important remedy, yet it does not register as a meaningful factor in the cross-country data in this paper. Higher levels of education simply have not correlated significantly with higher levels of tolerance across countries.
Do read the whole thing.