According to Richard Florida, cities must make purposive efforts to establish the right 'people climate' for the favoured class of 'creatives' or they will 'wither and die' (Florida, 2002; p. 13). Critically reflect upon Florida's thesis as to the role the creative classes play in stimulating economic success in places.
In 2002, Richard Florida published, The Rise of the Creative Class, the book analyses the forces reshaping our economy and how companies, communities and people can survive and prosper in a post-Fordist U.S. It provides a provocative new way of thinking about why and how places economically develop but whether there is merit in his thesis is questionable.
In essence, Florida's book seeks to describe a new economy, in which "Creativity has become a driving force of economic growth. The ability to compete and prosper in the global economy goes beyond trade in goods and services and flows of capital and investment, instead, it increasingly turns on the ability of [cities] to attract, retain and develop creative people" (Florida 2002a, p.3). These creative people are what Florida names the 'creative class' and it is this new socioeconomic class who he claims add economic value through their creativity and are "the ultimate economic resource" (Florida 2002a, p.2).
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It is important to understand that Florida's definition of the Creative Class is extremely broad. Florida (2002a) argues that this is because all professions entail some creativity in their execution. However, it can be broken down into three main components and each component illustrates a role that the creative class plays in stimulating economic success. The first component is the super-creative core. These are people who invent, take out patents and thus are at the centre of economic and technological development. It includes a wide range of occupations, with arts, design, and media workers as a small subset. Florida considers those belonging to this group to "fully engage in the creative process" (2002a, p. 69). The Super-Creative Core is believed to be innovative, creating commercial products and consumer goods and "the ability to come up with new ideas and better ways of doing things is ultimately what raises productivity" (Florida 2002a, p.2).
The second component is the creative professionals. This group do not have as clear of a connection with technological development. They educate, manage, care take as well as develop models and thoughts and thereby facilitate the economic development. The bohemians is the last component. These are the artistically creative and their role is attracting the other two groups. The presence of such human capital in turn creates a specific 'people climate' and attracts the first two components and therefore generates innovative, technology-based industries which bring economic prosperity (Florida 2002b). However, as will be explained later, the presence of bohemians in cities attracting the rest of the creative class and therefore promoting economic growth is a contested issue.
The fact that the creative class' "aggregate efforts have become the primary drivers of economic development" is made more understandable by the new economy that has been created. In this post-Fordist society, Hartley (2005) argues that high tech creative industries are at the core to economic development and therefore the creative class, who play a key role in these creative industries and are crucial to economic development. With this new society, Florida (2002a) argues that with more creative class presence there will be more high-tech jobs, more growth in employment and firm formation, therefore greater economic success.
Florida (2002) debates that this stimulation of economic success by the creative class means that there is an inevitable need for cities to attract the creative class or "they will wither and die". However, do jobs follow people or people follow jobs? The old Fordism models assumed that people move to where the jobs are, suggesting a development strategy of cutting corporate taxes, developing industrial parks and clusters. On the other hand in a Post-Fordism society, Florida (2002c) argues that jobs move to, or are made, where the skilled workers are, inferring an economic development strategy concentrated on attracting people as consumers of place and suggesting that the traditional beliefs of economic development are out of date. Florida is not the only one who comes to these conclusions, Vias (1999) and Holmberg et al. (2001) argue that jobs follow people too. However, question marks must be raised over the robustness of the research findings and the range of different population and/or employment groups; as Hoogstra et al. (2004) suggests the nature of causality differs greatly across space as well as time due to subjectivity.
Florida (2002) argues that diversity is the key to this attracting of the creative class and therefore economic success. Furthermore, places need to culturally provide and encourage the '3Ts'; talent, technology and tolerance. These attributes present a 'people climate' that Florida justifies when he writes, "Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. A vibrant, varied nightlife was viewed by many as another signal that a city 'gets it'" (2002a, p.67).
Florida measures this diversity by using three main indices: The 'Bohemian' index, the gay index and the 'coolness' index. From these indices and various others Florida devised his own ranking system with an overall creativity index for each city. It is through this method that Florida links his desired 'people climate' to the creative class and thus economic success. This idea that urban economic success comes from having an attractive 'people climate' for high skill people is in general an accepted view (Glaeser et al. 2001) and has certainly had an effect on urban policy, as Malanga (2004, p.36) observes, "The notion that cities must become trendy, happening places in order to compete in the twenty first century is sweeping urban America [and beyond]." However, is it Florida's 'people climate' that is needed to attract the creative class and therefore economically succeed?
The idea that Florida's 'people climate', created by the bohemians, attract the rest of the creative class to the city and therefore fuel economic growth, as mentioned earlier, is a contested issue. Glaeser (2004) argues that the creative class want big suburban lots with easy commutes by car, safe streets, good schools and low taxes. After all, he argues, there is plenty of evidence linking low taxes, sprawl and safety with growth. He gives the example of Plano in Texas, which was the most successful skilled city in the country in the 1990s and it's not exactly a Bohemian hotspot.
Where Florida is also vulnerable to criticism is in his methodology and manipulation of data in the correlation between his 'people climate' and the creative class and therefore economic growth. In his first appendix to The Rise of the Creative Class, he writes, "in retrospect, I probably could have written this book using no statistics at all." Moss (2009) argues that in chapters 13 and 14 and the accompanying appendices, Florida should have done just that. Part of Florida's 'people climate' is the 3T's concept, and he creates measurement indicators for each. Moss (2009) argues that, predominantly, both the logic and data linking these axes together are unclear. He argues that Florida relies primarily on lists of rankings of urban areas that look similar. Though Florida documents statistically significant correlations in some cases, both Clark (2004) and Glaeser (2004) find that they have less explanatory power than other combinations.
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Additionally Florida does not give much information about the regressions (Markusen 2006). Moss (2009) argues that this is illustrated by the fact that it is not known that Florida uses same-sex male households reporting as partners (and thus presumably gay) in the Census as a proxy for diversity. Not only does this show lack of information about the regressions and therefore less validity to Florida's thesis, but it also shows the vague nature of Florida's work.
Another flaw is that the connection between the 3T's element to Florida's 'people climate' and actual economic growth is weak. If Florida ran a regression on each of the 3T's and job creation or per-capita income, the results aren't given. In fact, the notes to chapter 13 record a correlation between employment growth and the Creative Class concentration that, while statistically significant, was only 0.03! (Moss 2009)
Steven Malanga finds more weaknesses in Florida's correlation between Florida's 'people climate' and economic growth. Since 1993, cities that score the best on Florida's analysis have actually shown to not have grown as fast as the overall U.S. jobs economy, increasing their employment numbers by only 17 per cent (Malanga 2004). Florida's indexes, in fact, are such weak predictors of economic performance that his top ranked cities haven't even outperformed his bottom ranked ones (Malanga 2004). Led by large percentage gains in Las Vegas (the fastest-growing economy in the U.S), Florida's ten least creative cities are actually huge job generators, adding more than 19 per cent to their job totals since 1993 (faster growth than the national economy) (Malanga 2004). Malanga's main argument, that Florida makes no significant effort to show how the 3T's are related to actual economic growth, is powerful.
Florida's Creativity Index is also shown to have faults and therefore illegitimizing the correlation between Florida's 'people climate' and the creative class and therefore economic growth. The Creativity Index is centred on four equally weighted factors: the concentration of Creative Class workers in the area, a "High Tech" index measuring a region's share of national tech industry output, the concentration of tech industries within the region, as well as the number of patents recorded per capita and the concentration of same-sex domestic partners within the region (Moss 2009). No justification or evidence is shown that supports the notion that these factors should be equally weighted (Moss 2009). Alternatively, each of 268 metropolitan areas is ranked on each of the four factors, and the Creativity Index is calculated solely by subtracting the region's rank order in each category from 1076, which, strangely, is four times 269 (Florida 2002a). Florida does not bother to look at the distribution of the actual values within the ranks, which is only useful if the distribution is linear, or doesn't vary between the four factors. For example, if there's a substantial band of cities in the Creative Class index that are almost equal from rank 140 to rank 157, but the city ranked 157 in the patent index is a large drop from the city ranked 156; this system wouldn't pick such common subtleties up. This highlights the lack of rigorous scientific inquiry in which Florida operates.
Much of Florida's work focuses on the U.S solely and it is questionable to whether Florida's ideas are transferrable to the rest of the world. In Europe, several researchers have tried to produce similar data and have obtained spatial correlations similar to Florida's (Boschma and Fritsch 2007). This thesis is therefore not specific to North America: it can also be applied to Europe, and Florida and his colleagues have, in fact, conducted a report backing this claim (Florida and Tinagli 2004). Although Florida's work has been said to be legitimate in Europe, more concentrated in-depth studies prove that this is not the case in the UK. Nathan (2005) examines Florida's ideas, concentrating on the evidence in British cities. He finds insufficient evidence of a 'creative class', and little indication that 'creative' cities do better. He argues that companies search for the required workers when making location decisions, but skilled people also move to where the jobs are. Buzz attracts young people to city centres for a short time, after which most move out to suburbs; this is mainly down to the hegemony of London. Nathan (2005) concludes that the creative class model is a poor judge of UK city economic performance and "decision makers should focus on the basics: creativity is the icing, not the cake" (Nathan 2005, p.1).
Not many studies at all have been done implying Florida's thesis on other developed countries outside Europe and therefore it is hard to say whether his thesis applies to the whole of the developed world. Not many studies have been carried out on the developing world either. Purely on the basis that most non developed countries are not entirely associated with the post-Fordist economy, one assumes that the creative class is smaller and not attracted to the cities therefore not having as significant a role in economic development. Thus, it must be said that it is hard to justify Florida's thesis as having relevance to the rest of the globe.
In conclusion, Florida's claim that attracting the creative class to cities in a post-Fordist society does have substance. However, his claim that jobs follow people is tarnished by the subjective nature of this concept, with a need to collect more data. In analysing Florida's link between his 'people climate' and economic growth one begins to cast doubt over his thesis. This is down to his poor methodology and seeming manipulation of data and the fact that Florida's correlations have less explanatory power than others. Additionally, not much information is given on the regressions decreasing their validity, Florida's link between the 3Ts and economic growth is weak and the creativity index also has flaws. Florida's thesis is said to be transferrable to Europe but is not applicable to the UK. His theory has not been applied to the rest of the developed world or the developing world in depth and therefore one cannot say if his theory is valid.
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