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March 31, 2008

Richard Florida

City Lover

Toronto Life blogger, Douglas Bell, chastises me for a recent "love letter" to Philadelphia, attempting to imply because I have some nice things to say about Philly my affection for Toronto must be insincere, adding that:

All of which is fine, except that don’t all these worthy abstractions — “mega-regions,” “$2 trillion in economic output” — neatly obscure the fundamental problem of North American urban life? I’m speaking of the growing disparity between rich and poor and the diminishing prospects for political engagement between these increasingly polarized classes. Anyone who’s seen even a few episodes of The Wire, David Simon’s brilliant study of urban alienation, knows that it is exactly this sort of high-minded obfuscating that drives us further and further from recognizing this simple truth.

Sometimes it pays to slow down and take a look at someone's work before bashing away at the keyboard. A key theme of Who's Your City? is that the world is spiky, meaning that there is a growing disparity between mega-regions and other places and within mega-regions between rich and poor.  The book argues that today class divisions are increasingly overlayed by location and place.  And Flight of the Creative Class includes an inequality index for all US regions, arguing that mounting inequality and political polarization and disengagement is a huge problem for the US. In fact, I wrote a column on just that kind of polarization for this Saturday's Globe and Mail, and another a while back on the increasing social and economic polarization of the 3 Torontos. Understanding class polarization and growing economic and geographic inequality is at the very core of my work.

And I still really like both Philly and Toronto just fine - and a whole bunch of other cities too.

Here's about an hour long interview of me by the fantastic, Will Wilkinson on bloggingheads.tv. Here's what Will has to say about the book:

This is a really fascinating book and I highly recommend it. First of all, it’s really important to help people realize that where you live is important, that it is a choice, and you are responsible for it. Second, the importance of agglomeration to innovation and growth is I think one of the most interesting issues there is, and Florida does a great job of covering this work. But what I found most fascinating is new work Florida reports on that shows the relationship between place and happiness and place and personality. Did you know that extraverts are more likely to live in the midwest? That New York City is the capital of neuroticism? (Of yeah, you did!) That big coastal cities are most likely to be home to people high on openness to experience? Does your personality really fit the place you live? Fascinating stuff.

I read an early version of Who’s Your City about two years ago and told Richard it would be really interesting to see if there is a relationship between place and personality. I was completely blown away reading the finished book to see that there is in fact some good data on this and also by how far Richard is pushing it. I hope the book does well, and I’m betting it does.

Richard Florida

The Singles Map

                                          From the book, Who's Your City?

This is a new, updated and improved version the singles map (inspired by an earlier map in  National Geographic) published in Sunday's Boston Globe.

                                                           MORE COOL MAPS, here.

Continue reading "The Singles Map" »

March 30, 2008

Richard Florida

Who's Your Philly

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Philadelphia has a secret weapon. Housing everywhere, from the urban core to its terrific suburbs, remains affordable. The biggest challenge in the leading mega-regions of the world is escalating housing prices. Wharton's Joseph Gyourko and colleagues dub this the "superstar-city" phenomenon. Prices in other key parts of Bos-Wash (not just Manhattan, but also Boston and Washington) have skyrocketed, and not even the subprime crisis or the current credit crunch has brought them down to earth. At a recent dinner party in Toronto, we were talking about trying to recruit a high-flying professor from a Philadelphia-area university, when a colleague jumped in: "We'll never get him. He has a mansion outside of Philadelphia for less than what it would take to buy a two-bedroom condo in Toronto." This housing-cost advantage is a huge edge for Philly's future. Philadelphia has plenty of challenges. As in all cities, there's work to do on crime and urban education. But both city and region are well-positioned for the future.

The rest is here.

March 29, 2008

Richard Florida



NY Times'
Noam Cohen (of Obama's a Mac, Hillary a PC fame) on the Brooklyn-Bay Area

Much the way Hollywood people have shuttled between Los Angeles and Manhattan for decades, or academics commute on the Acela between Morningside Heights and Cambridge, Mass., there is a young, earnest population that is beating a path between artsy, gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn and their counterparts in the Bay Area, especially East Oakland and the area south of Market Street in San Francisco, or SoMa.

Richard Florida, the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” which argues that urban renewal is sparked by high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, gay men and lesbians, ranked San Francisco No. 1 on his “creativity index” and New York City No. 9. Although Mr. Florida did not break out data for Brooklyn, “anecdotally it has a large concentration of creative people who have moved from Manhattan and elsewhere,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I am confident if such data existed, Brooklyn would do very well.”

He added that the populations drawn to both areas by alternative art and music scenes, and by a tolerance for diversity, were looking for a “messy urbanism, a clash of different styles that Brooklyn still retains, that the East Bay still retains.”

Other communities across the country also fit this bill, but what Brooklyn and the East Bay share is proximity to more cosmopolitan centers — Manhattan and San Francisco — where the “creative class,” many of whom are freelancers, can earn a living.

More here.

My new Globe and Mail column is out.

For the past two weeks, all eyes have focused on Barack Obama and race. A couple of weeks ago, it was Hillary Clinton's gender. A month before that, it was all about the Obama surge among young voters. Pundits on all sides have framed this election - and especially the Democratic primary - as turning on the traditional fault lines of race, gender and generation. The talk shows go on and on about how Mr. Obama is attracting black and young voters and how Ms. Clinton finds her voice among women and baby boomers. But what is seldom discussed and yet most interesting about this election is not any young-vs.-old, black-vs.-white, or male-vs.-female dynamic.

At bottom, both the Democratic primary and the upcoming general election turn on an even deeper economic and social force: class.

In 2002, I defined a new creative class of inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, musicians, designers and professionals in idea-driven industries. Today, nearly 40 million American workers fit into that group, 35 per cent of the total working population and a good deal more than the 23 per cent who make up the working class. That the creative class drives economic success in cities and nations is undeniable; the "spiky" regions that drive our economic success today - from the Boston-Washington corridor to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest - are doing so because they are magnets for the entrepreneurial and talented members of this class.

Up to this point, creative-class people have predominantly cast themselves as politically independent or "post-partisan," and their political sympathies have been up for grabs. The traditional Republican platform of individualism, economic opportunity and fiscal responsibility appeals to them; but so, too, do the Democratic values of social liberalism, environmentalism and a progressive track record on gay and women's rights. Democratic candidates such as Bill Bradley and Howard Dean attracted the creative class in the 2000 and 2004 elections. But no one has caught fire with this class like Barack Obama.

I knew it was time for a closer look when MTV called me to comment on the Obama-and-the-creative-class phenomenon. After poring over detailed exit-poll data on race, income and ideological orientation, Chris Bowers, the Netroots blogger, concluded: "When all is said and done, it looks like Obama will ultimately owe his victory to African Americans and his huge, creative-class activist army."

To get a better sense of how this deep this support runs, I asked opinion pollster John Zogby to look into how creative-class people were voting in this primary season. The result: On issue after issue, they preferred Mr. Obama to either Ms. Clinton or Republican John McCain by wide margins.

Asked which presidential candidate would "provide meaningful leadership for the country," 64 per cent of creative-class respondents said Mr. Obama, compared with roughly 21 per cent for Ms. Clinton and 9 per cent for Mr. McCain. On the question of who was best positioned to unify the country, Mr. Obama was chosen by 74 per cent of creative-class voters. The same basic pattern holds across the board: The creative class prefers Mr. Obama on issue after issue, from illegal immigration to the economy and health care. Mr. Obama even bests Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain substantially on the issue where he is allegedly weakest - "combatting terrorism" - registering 50 per cent of creative-class support compared with 24 per cent for Ms. Clinton and 18 per cent for Mr. McCain.

What we're seeing is not a red-state, blue-state divide, but something much bigger, if more calibrated.Mr. Obama consistently polls strongest in cities and regions with significant creative-class concentrations. Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, has scored better in industrial states with dominant blue-collar towns, where voters are anxious about the economy and job prospects. Ms. Clinton is more popular among voters without college degrees. Meanwhile, Duke University political scientist Brendan Nyhan has crunched numbers that show a college education to be a big predictor for Obama support.

This divergence in the electorate raises an interesting dilemma for campaign strategists. Is a coalition between the creative class and working class even viable? Appealing to them both will prove difficult. The creative class anticipates the future while the working class is, in many senses, seeking protection from it. The creative class does not want someone to fight for it; the us-against-them meme doesn't resonate with them in politics any more than it does in a conference room, film studio or the skunk works of a high-tech start-up.

It will be difficult for Ms. Clinton to win wholehearted endorsement of the creative class, as committed as she is to specific programs. It will also be hard for Mr. Obama's rhetoric of hope and change to resonate with those who are falling farther and farther behind economically. In coming years, it will be vitally important for progressive political leaders to reach out to the working and service classes, and in ways that enable them to connect to the new creative economy. But in the short months remaining until the general election, deep-seated working-class anxiety about economic and social change is not likely to be overcome.

Clearly, neither race, gender, nor age can provide the core support necessary for a sustainable political majority. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt forged a new majority on the swelling ranks of blue-collar workers, so must the candidate and party that hope to win this election, and shape the political landscape for years to come, gain the support of today's ascending economic and political force - the creative class.

Richard Florida is the author of Who's Your City? and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

March 27, 2008

Richard Florida

Who's Your What ...

Over at B-Net, Michael Fitzgerald writes:

Let me just say this straight out: I hate the name of Richard Florida’s new book, “Who’s Your City?” Has he confused his ‘where’ with his ‘who’? Is he anthropomorphizing cities? Is he having a Pedro Martinez moment?

Hmmmm.  Let's just say a heckuva lot of thought went into that title - including the smarts of a young, talented University of Iowa rhetoric major and our entire team.  It's meant to reflect the central theme of the book - how to find the place that bests fits you.

Anybody else out there want to help him out?

March 26, 2008

Aleem : Urban Digs

Who's Your "Ship" ?

Freedom Ship International has created the layout for the world's first city floating on water.  The ship's design would be home to 40,000 full time residents, 30,000 daily visitors, 10,000 nightly hotel guests, and 20,000 full time crew. This population of 100,000 people will provide a wealth of talent and diversity for the private businesses aboard the ship and to those they visit daily on their adventures ashore.  Over 200 acres of open area are planned for recreation and relaxation.  Freedom Ship also plans the biggest duty free retail shopping mall in the world along with the best education and health care facilities available.

The cost - anywhere from $180,000 to $2.5 million as well as a small number of premium suites currently priced up to (hold your breath!) $44 million.  Check out the on board subway in the second picture.



This truly blends urban planning and cruising in a way we have never really seen.  Price aside, what do you think of the concept? 

Aleem Kanji

NPR ran a story this morning about the trend of airlines charging for inches of leg space.  Any way they can squeeze a nickle or dime out of you, they will.  Jet Blue and United are taking the lead to offer passengers 6-8 inches of extra leg room for $10-$20.  With measures like this, tLegroomhe airline industry is going to crash and burn just like the Big 3 - Rigid Fat Cats of Detroit's automotive industry. 

Over at Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McCleod, a professor at Iowa State University, considers the spiky world of Who's Your City? and asks:

I just moved to Ames, Iowa. The state capital, Des Moines, is a small creative center just 25 minutes away. Given his methodology, I’m guessing that Ames and Iowa State University are included in Dr. Florida’s statistics on the Des Moines region. Of all medium-sized U.S. regions (0.5 to 1 million people), Dr. Florida ranks Des Moines as the #1 ‘Best Buy’ region for families with children and #2 for professionals age 29–44. That’s cool for me and my family and my professional colleagues. But the reality is that we’re surrounded by fields. Over 90% of the state is corn or soybean fields (or hog farms).

So what do I tell the rural school leaders with whom I’ll be working? They’re already in communities that are struggling to survive. Do I tell them that, because they live in Florida’s ‘huge valleys,’ that their schools and communities are basically doomed? Or is there a way for them to still be economically productive and viable?

What do you guys think?