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November 27, 2007

Richard Florida

The Divider

« Rise of China's Cities | Main | Connectivity »

Joel Kotkin is up to his old tricks, trying to draw a false divide between "family friendly" communities and those oriented to the "young and restless, the 'creative class', and the so-called 'yuspie'--the young urban single professional" in his words. I've read this same article from Kotkin at least ten times now. 

First off, it's always important to point out that Kotkin loves to argue with himself. Just have a look at his book, The New Geography where he goes overboard in extolling the virtues of urban centers for the very same reasons he now criticizes them. 

But the real issue is that there is no divide here. The best cities and the best regions offer something for everyone. Look, nuclear families with children under 18 in the household account for less than a quarter of all households. Single people make up more than 50 percent. Gary Gates' detailed research has shown lots of gay couples resemble heterosexual married couples, lots of others have kids, and that the gay and lesbian community is coming more and more to resemble America broadly and is growing most rapidly in many of Kotkin's preferred places.

Kotkin mentions married people are more successful than single people.  Perhaps.  But Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Mark Cuban were mighty successful BEFORE they were married. Many entrepreneurs have to front-load their careers, as I argued in Rise. They have to work extremely hard to make it, and thus postpone marriage. Is Kotkin implying regions should not want these kinds of entrepreneurial front-loaders. I hope not. And of course they built their businesses in communities like Seattle, Austin and the San Francisco Bay Area, just the sort of life-style meccas, Kotkin argues against.

I could go on and on, but I simply want to point out that I covered all of this in Rise (a quick excerpt after the jump, along with a useful table).  I'll have much more to say on all of this in Who's Your City where we rank communities across five key life-stages - single, young professional, married with children, empty-nester, and retiree.

I'd like to write more, and provide even more specifics and data, but I'm rushing to catch the plane home from Australia. I'll try to follow with more later. But let me add just one last thing.

How about a little wager to make things interesting? . Lets have a bet on which city-regions will perform best over the next decade measured by per capita income, innovations, and growth in wealth. I take my creativity index regions - San Fran, Austin, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, plus NY and LA.  Globally, I'll take London, Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam and Stockholm.  Joel can have his favorite places. I've made this offer to Joel before and I'll make it again. I'm putting my money down now.  Any takers?

UPDATE: Arnold Kling (long an inspiration to me as a blogger) writes:

I'll take Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Fairfax, ...whoa, there--you said regions? That doesn't leave me much. Given that there are suburban enclaves as well as urban hip zones in all of these regions, maybe this is a silly argument.

Yes, that`s exactly my point. They are enclaves within broader regions.  Google runs its bus from San Francisco to its Silicon Valley headquarters for precisely this reason. My wife and I both commuted from Northwest DC to Northern Virginia. As I wrote in Rise, great regions are really federations of great neighborhoods and communities offering something for all sorts of different kinds of people. Family people who work in finance can commute from Silicon Valley to San Fran, while those who do government related work can commute from NoVa to downtown DC.  Gays, singles, Dinks and what not can do the reverse. It`s not either-or, it`s both.

A woman from Minneapolis that I interviewed put the age issue in perceptive. She originally came to Minneapolis as a young single because of the lifestyle it offered. She liked being able to engage in active outdoor recreation with other young singles in Minneapolis’ fabulous park system and being able to walk from her house to the local nightspots. She never thought it would be a good place to have a family and raise kids. But when she got married and had children she was more than pleasantly surprised to find that many of the same lifestyle amenities she enjoyed while she was single--the parks and walkable neighborhoods--were even more attractive to her as a married person and new parent ....

In summer 2001, there was a big hubbub in Pittsburgh over a list America’s 25 most “child-friendly cities.” The commotion was over the fact that Pittsburgh, which has always seen itself as a family town, ranked thirteenth. Of the 12 cities that ranked above it, all but two also ranked in the top 25 on the Creativity Index. Three of the top five cities were also among those with the fewest children per capita—San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. Interestingly all of the top 5 kid-friendly cities—Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco also ranked highly on the Gay Index.

While some might see this as a contradiction, (How can gay cities be family-friendly?), for me the connection is simple. Cites that offer high-quality lifestyle amenities to some groups are likely to view quality of place in general as being very important. It’s analogous to companies adopting innovative customer-oriented business practices: the best companies tend to get it right across the board. The best cities like the best companies do it all, offering something for everybody.

Child-Friendly Cities are also Leading Creative and Gay Regions

Rank

Region

Child-Friendly

Score

Creativity Index

Gay Index

1

Portland OR

A+

16

20

2

Seattle

A+

5

8

3

Minneapolis

A

11

31

4

New York

A

9

14

5

San Francisco

A

1

1

6

Boston

A-

3

22

7

Denver

A-

13

18

8

Fort Worth*

B+

10

9

9

Houston

B+

7

10

10

San Diego

B+

4

3

11

Silicon Valley**

B

1

1

12

Dallas

B

10

9

13

Pittsburgh

B

36

48

14

St. Louis

B

31

45

15

Cleveland

B

30

43

16

Chicago

B

15

26

17

Philadelphia

B

17

33

18

Phoenix

C+

19

16

19

Los Angeles

C

12

4

20

Miami

C

29

2

21

Tampa

C

26

19

22

Washington DC

C

8

13

23

Baltimore**

C-

8

13

24

Detroit

C-

39

46

25

Atlanta

C-

14

7

Source:  Rise of the Creative Class

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Comments

Addie

What do the single and double asterisks mean? (I live in Baltimore so I'm curious.) Thanks!

Paul White

How much money is on the line?

bri

I'll take Salt Lake City.

Rich Berger

How in the world do NY and SF get A's for being child-friendly? From SF Gate in 2006 - 'In 1970, children younger than 18 made up 22 percent of the population compared with just under 15 percent in 2004. San Francisco has the lowest percentage of households with children among the 50 largest U.S. cities. '

Wendy

I think Kotkin (and many economists, demographers, social analysts), is trapped in a baby boomer and older generation x notion that you have to change your life 180 degrees when you have kids -- moving from the city to the 'burbs.

I have two very young children, and they do change your life and your perspectives. But, many people today are finding ways to balance career, personal interests, and family life. It can be very difficult to have a career-life balance living 40 miles from your place of work. And, for the "young and the restless" having an active social life and living 40 miles from the clubs doesn't work that well either. Therefore, living closer to downtowns is becoming more desirable by everyone.

Also, the more people around, the easier it is to find "your tribe" - whether that tribe is other families with young children, the gay/lesbian scene, the artist and musicians, etc. Again why cities can work for everyone.

Michael Wells

To answer Rich, I think the child friendly ratings was based on policies, parks, etc. not numbers. San Francisco would be a great place to raise kids, but the average house price is $800,000. I have a daughter/son-in-law/granddaughter in Walnut Creek who would love to live in the City again, but they can't afford it. Rather than choosing the 'burbs they were forced there.

Portland update. It's now number 4 on Gary Gates gay index, as shown on this blog recently. And its still very child friendly. Yes it has fewer kids than Kotkin's cities but not dramatically less. According to the Census, 21.1% of Portland's population is 18 and under, Charlotte is 24.7% and Dallas is 26.6%. (That's within city limits, suburbs are probably even closer).

Wendy's onto something. I think something that's being missed is that many of those Creative Class young singles will have kids and yes, get married, although later than their parents generation. I expect the affordable creative cities like Portland are going to experience little baby booms. I see it in my twin daughters who live here and have two kids each, and have lots of playmates in their neighborhoods. On my small block there are 10 kids between new babies to 16, and several on the block are grandparent age having raised children in the city.

But come on Richard, why isn't Portland on your betting list? Are we too small?

Wil

San Francisco is not child friendly. I love S.F. and lived there for many years single, but moved out of the country after getting married and having children. The decision was a lifestyle choice only. We do spend lots of time in the U.S.A. and back in S.F., but it is not the place to have children.

My votes for rising North American Cities are all in Canada: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax. In the U.S. I would vote for Seattle, and Portland.

Peter

I can't judge on the US choices, but I definitely would not vote for Stockholm. The gravitional center of Scandinavia is more and more focused on the Copenhagen/Malmø region, plus that Copenhagen has experienced an amazing development in innovative and creative businesses in the last 5 years, with the city as well going through interesting transformations. The harbour area changing as the London Docklancs many years back, and attracting lots of small new businesses and lifestyle innovators.
The general wealth level will also change, as soon as the moronic new government gets their heads around the tax challenges ahead (Denmark has one of the highest tax pressures anywhere). These challenges will be decisive in whether what I say above will continue or disappear as quickly as it came ;)

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