The Rise of the Creative Class


| May 29, 2002 Issue


W hat enables a city to prosper in the current economy? Creativity, according to Richard Florida, who in an excerpt from his upcoming book featured in The Washington Monthly, has tracked the demographics of vital cities and found a distinct pattern: Cities with a high degree of the "creative class" -- a segment of fast-growing, highly educated, and independent-thinking workers -- are more likely to succeed than those with a low proportion.

The creative class is a crucial part of a city's demographic, because "these people contribute more than intelligence or computer skills," Florida writes. "They add creative value. Members of this super-creative core produce new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful."

However, cities often fail to attract the creative class because they are locked into old patterns of development, such as investing in retail malls, sports arenas, and chain restaurants -- precisely the kind of environment that the creative class avoids.

"Most experts and scholars have not even begun to think in terms of a creative community," writes Florida. "Instead, they tend to try to emulate the Silicon Valley model which author Joel Kotkin has dubbed the 'nerdistan.'"

If cities are to lure the creative class, Florida states, they must adapt to these expectations and concentrate on the well-being of their people. They must remain "open to diversity and actively [work] to cultivate it, and [invest] in the lifestyle amenities that people really want and use often."
--Julie Madsen
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