Insight: Rise Revisited – Exploring America’s Regional Creative Class Breakdown

Ten years ago, Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, released The Rise of the Creative Class. This best-selling book shed light into changing economic, geographical and demographic trends within the United States, shifted by the growing role of creativity. Ten years later, The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited has been released, complete with updated statistics, several new chapters and Florida’s reflections on the impact of creativity in our work, communities and lives. To celebrate the release of the new book, the Martin Prosperity Institute will release a series of four Insights, providing discussion of the new statistics, maps and analysis. This is the third Insight in the series.

In the original version of Rise, Richard Florida described the growing emergence of people sorting geographically in accordance to their class. Geographic regions that are able to attract and retain larger percentages of Creative Class individuals are consequently expected to have an economic advantage, leading to an increased possibility of success. Regions with larger Working and Service class shares generally do not share the same prospects. When looking at geographic growth, population is generally referred to, but as Rise Revisited explains, population growth does not necessarily attribute to economic success. Looking at the Creative Class share within the geography of the United States would display accurately, the disparity between regions in regards to economic capacity in a knowledge based, creative economy. There are a number of Creative Class occupations, and in the original addition of Rise, they were separated into two subgroups for analysis: the Super-Creative Core and Creative Professionals. With Lou Mustane’s help, the 10th anniversary addition of Rise includes a new Creative Class breakdown into smaller categories. The four sub-categories are referred to with the acronym TAPE and are as follows: Technology, Arts, Professional and Educational and Medical (“Meds and Eds”) workers.

These more detailed categories allow for a specific analysis of creative occupations within the United States in order to better understand the economic potential of a region. These four Creative Class groups are fairly different from each other and the percentage of a different group or groups contributes to different economic results. In particular, it was identified, which of the four groups add the most to regional development and why. Employment within science and tech along with business professionals and arts workers, contribute more to regional economic output and wages. Medical and educational workers generally do not add the same economic output to regional wages, if any at all, as unlike occupations within engineering or management, ”Meds and Eds” occupations do not typically produce items which can be exported or sold in the global market.

Within the US, the top five metros for each Creative Class grouping are described. For the technology and science subgroup, the metros with the largest share of its total employment are as follows: San Jose (17%), Huntsville (16.5%), Boulder (14.5%), Framingham (13.4%) and Lowell (13.0%). It is not surprising that the large tech hubs of San Jose and Boulder have high tech shares of employment. When looking at the arts and cultural subgroup, the results are as follows: LA (3.4%), New York (2.8%), San Francisco (2.7%), Washington DC (2.4%) and Boston (2.2%). Once again it is not surprising that art Mecca’s New York and LA top the list, along with the booming art centre of Washington. For business professionals the metros with the greatest share of employment within this group are: Washington, DC (23.1%), San Francisco (20.6%), Bridgeport (20.2%), Trenton (18.8%) and Tallahassee (18.8%). Lastly, the metros that lead in regards to meds and eds were found to be: Ithaca (29.6%), Gainesville (22.1%), Athens (21.1%), Rochester MN (21%) and Ann Arbor (21%). Again, these are metros that are relatively well known for their respected employment strengths. It is also not surprising that some of the metros listed above with strong scores, such as Washington and Boulder, score highly on the overall Creativity Index, due to such strong Creative Class shares.

The maps below display the strength of each region within the United States according to the four TAPE subgroups. The darker shade of purple, the higher the percentage of that particular subgroup, and the lighter the shade of purple, the smaller the percentage is. The colour intensity varies by the maximum value for each of the four subgroups.

Exhibit 1: Major Creative Class Subgroups, 2010

Exhibit 1: Major Creative Class Subgroups, 2010


When looking at the maps, some reoccurring trends become evident. Firstly when looking at the arts, business and science maps, the north east coast is a dark shade of purple and encompasses the largest grouping of dark purple. From Boston, to New York, to Washington and Virginia, this larger region or group of metros has some of the largest occupational shares within art, science and business within the country. After that, coastal California from San Jose, to San Francisco to Los Angeles, to San Diego makes up the second largest grouping of dark purple. This contributes to the trend that California is the state with the largest grouping of highest shares of employees within the arts, business and science. After California, the regions in which the trend of having high percentages of employees within the arts, science and business together is strongest within mid Colorado, coastal Washington (state) and Oregon. There are also smaller groupings of strong shares within these three Creative subgroups in Arizona, Texas and Florida. For many mid-western and mid-northern states, few regions have large shares of employers within these three TAPE’s.

The one map that does not share common geographic trends with the art, science and business maps is the medical and educational workers map. While there are still parts of California and the Northeast that have high concentrations of medical and educational occupations, it is not to the same degree and in the same metros as the other maps. What you also see from the “Meds and Eds” map is less of a concentration or grouping of metros and regions with higher shares. The darker shades are much more spread out into University towns or medical towns such as College Station Texas (with Texas A&M) or Bethesda, Maryland (with the NIH Health Center and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center).

The maps above display the strong shares within a variety of different Creative occupations throughout regions of the US such as Silicon Valley, but the map also displays a degree of specialization within certain regions. It was found that there are still a number of regions that specialize within particular occupations. These metros will have a very high share in one of the four Creative subgroups and lower scores in the others. Examples of regions in which the occupational share is specialized towards one subgroup more than the rest of the US are as follows: a specialization within arts and culture occupations was found in Missoula, MT; a specialization within business occupations was found in Manchester, NH; and a specialization within science and technological occupations was found in the metros of Huntsville, AL and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach – Destin, FL. These regions of specialization, also unlike many other regions are generally not clustered like the metros in the northeast, California or the northwest.

As the maps above display, regional concentrations within the subgroups of Creative Class occupations are apparent. Increasingly, the occupational composition and concentration of a region’s labour force will have different effects on a city’s economy, whereby it was found that when looking at a concentration of medical and education occupations in a region, little is added to that region’s income as when the overall occupational share within this subcategory rises, earnings and incomes tend to fall. When occupations within the arts and science are concentrated though, they add to regional wages, and overall size also affects these Creative occupations. When they are clustered in highly populated areas, wages are higher. While clustering of some Creative occupational subgroups can lead to added wages, it was found that the regions with the best economic prospects were those with a diversity of Creative Class workers, which is related to higher wages. While the maps above display the regions in which the share of certain Creative subgroups are the highest, Creative diversity creates a better economic setting than Creative dominance. As discussed in previous Insights, Creative diversity fosters “knowledge spillovers”, which is a key determinant of innovation, which is a key attribute of economic success. This unique series of maps provide a detailed outlook into the regional creative occupational strengths and weaknesses of metro regions throughout the United States.

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.