Volohk’er Tyler Cowen notes some serious holes in Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class. Kevin Drum and I had an interesting discussion on this topic last fall (see posts here and here.*)

It turns out that the correlation between a city’s economic growth and its support for a bohemian culture is actually negative.

[S]ince 1993, cities that score the best on Florida’s analysis have actually grown no faster than the overall U.S. jobs economy, increasing their employment base by only slightly more than 17 percent. Florida’s indexes, in fact, are such poor predictors of economic performance that his top cities haven’t even outperformed his bottom ones. Led by big percentage gains in Las Vegas (the fastest-growing local economy in the nation) as well as in Oklahoma City and Memphis, Florida’s ten least creative cities turn out to be jobs powerhouses, adding more than 19 percent to their job totals since 1993–faster growth even than the national economy.”

Interesting. If I had to hazard a guess–and it is just that–I’d say that two things are at work here. First, I’ve maintained from the beginning that the causal trends here are reversed: an affluent, vibrant economy tends to create tolerant, open-minded citizens. Second, there would have to be some regression to the mean here. It’s a lot easier to have a high rate of growth from a low base than a high one, so it’s hardly surprising that Memphis and Oklahoma City would grow faster than Seattle and Silicon Valley.

*Note: Kevin’s archives have apparently been rebuilt, as neither of the links from within those posts of mine to his posts actually lead to them at the moment.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    The “creative” communities I’ve seen — “artists’ colonies” and the like — have tended to take a “no-growth” or “controlled-growth” position politically, so this finding of a negative correlation makes more sense to me than would a positive one.

  2. craig henry says:

    The other advantage of a low base is cheap real estate. In currently depressed communities, artists can find cheap places to live and businesses can find cheap office/factory space. That factor often lies behind Florida’s correlation.

  3. Paul says:

    Florida is a loon.

    He calls New Orleans one of the least creative cities. This from a city that is nearly defined by its artistic population. And as fans of the bohemian lifestyle, if we could sell them like crops we would all be rich.

    About 1/3 the French Quarter is exclusively gay with a large hunk of the rest of it being that way too. Gay’s are hardly underrepresented.

    New Orleans has the opposite problem. Artists on every freaking street corner (literally) and nobody that produces a product. If those people would just get a freaking job, the place would boom.

    This is just another reason why I have little or no respect but the so called academic class. (present company excluded of course 😉 They prolifically produce books about nothing.