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May 29, 2008

Richard Florida

Cities and Ambition

« Death and Life of Public Intellectuals | Main | Super Star Cities »

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder ... A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It's not something you have to seek out, but something you can't turn off.

This and much, much more in this fascinating new essay by Paul Graham (h/t: Ben Casnocha).


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This was a fascinating essay - thanks for the pointer. I'm curious - what message do you think Pittsburgh sends, if any?

Scott McWilliams

The City Gal

Dr. Florida,

This was a fantastic essay! It was dead on!

I wonder what message Toronto sends? If I had to guess, I would have to say "youth, growth, future, intellect, possibilities, anything goes, room for eveyone".


What is beginning to depress me is how little this site seems to be saying for the vast majority of people.

Yes, rooms full of books and an intellectual milieu would make a great place to live for about 0.01% of the world, but the vast majority of people simply aren't interested. Does that make them worthless? Should we ignore their needs because they don't fit in with our privileged tastes?

By all means Richard Florida's ideas seem to me to be genuinely about attracting economic drivers to regions. This is fine, and should be a starting point for framing regeneration efforts. But doesn't that base itself on the assumption that wealth trickles down? I'm British, I lived under Thatcher, and I can conclude that it does not. Even almost 20 years since Thatcher, the gap between rich and poor in the UK has continued to grow, despite 11 years of a nominally left-wing government.

In short, I'm over this appeal to "wealth generators" as a way of focusing regeneration efforts. I live in a very deprived area of the UK called the Black Country. It was one of the birthplaces on the industrial revolution, and has suffered considerably from the ravages of industry, braindrain, provincial infighting and a reputation perpetuated by negative stereotypes in the media. I'm fed up of reading regeneration proposals that say the Black Country needs to attract professionals and managers in order to achieve a more mixed community.

As we say in England, "bollocks". The Black Country needs to improve life for the people who live here now. I'm fed up of being treated like a little cretin who couldn't help myself if I tried, and who needs good (white), well-educated ambitious types to drag me by my dirty collar into the world of SUVs, theatre-attendance and worrying about children's educational performance.

Because a) SUVs are inefficient, b) who goes to the theatre anymore and c) insisting your child does well in exams may actually be counterproductive...

I'm being facetious - the point I'm making is that morally, the behaviour of the celebrated "creative class" may be just as abysmal as the blue collar, downtrodden and disenfranchised that we're forever told are the reason why places don't "perform" economically.

Maybe we need a middle ground - where we can encourage the creative class, nurture and support the kind of economic activity that goes hand in hand with them, and then harness that drive to redistribute wealth, re-connect with those left behind by "the knowledge economy" and, more importantly, re-engange ethically and politically with that creative class who are, in my eyes, rapidly abandoning altruism, compassion and philanthropy in favour of spiky hair, matching dining furniture and all the trappings of the bourgeoisie.

peerless in seattle

Bravo!! I totally agree with Gobstar. I am an information professional with a graduate degree from a working class background. I also happen to be African American. Having lived in all along the WEst Coast, I have come to think that Florida's true definition of the so-called creative class is just a euphamism for yuppies, bobos and the leisure class-- people who have inherited wealth. i have lived throughout the Paicfic northwest and did my post-graduate studies in Vancouver, BC-- a fine, but very expensive city, by the way. compared to the american pnw cities vancouvers still feels, well, cosmopolitan. by comparison cities like seattle and sortland have truly just become the suburbs inside the city limits: at their cores they are homogenized, gentrified and devoid of the sometimes messy energy, diversity, curiousity and spirit most of us think of when we imagine truly cosmopolitan cities. true, having a thoroughly well-to-do populace is very good for a city's coffers which means nice parks and things. who could argue with that! it can also be argued that this homogenity makes for smoother city planning. but dang, it is unsettling to feel that you can no longer take an evening stroll your neigborhood because your new neighbors seem intriniscally afraid of difference despite moving nto the heart of a city. to my mind city people are more open, confident and usually culturally (relatively) sophisticated because they accept, even embrace, living within a diverse space. the surburbs used to be were fearful homogenity dwelled. this has been turned upside down because now many american cities have become filled with mostly white, passive-aggressively xenophobic (when it comes to people of colour or different classes) upper-middle class people. although much of what florida is saying is observantly true (city cores are attractive once again to the children of the white-flight generation) the outcomes have not ultimately good for those of us who see cities greatest power and mystique coming from their mosiac qualities. it is this quality that has always had the most transformative potential and been the most truly creative aspect-- it is were the true magic of greatest cities has alway lived. perhaps the immigrants, working class folks and minorites who have been banished to outskirts will reinvent those places into something good and vibrate. maybe not. but in reading this blog and others on the topic of cities. i have come to suspect that not only has the meaning of the word city evolved into something new, less vibrate and more quantified but so has the word creative. you claim to be a fan of jane jacobs but when she wrote about greats cities this is, sadly, not what she meant. still, i think what you doing is quite thought provoking. thanks for providing a forum for people who care about this issues to respectfully discuss them. forgive mispellings-- i am in a hurry. cheers!

Zoe B

Florida has said - in numerous forums - that we need to figure out how to foster and put to work the creativity of those in the service class. I thoroughly agree, for moral reasons and many more. However, I find this blog has not been discussing the topic in more than high theoretical mode. I guess none of us work in that field.

We now have a roster of strategies and success stories about how to attract the creative 30+ % to your town. Who has had comparative success in empowering the service class in the 21st millenium - in a way that prepares them for the future rather than frames class conflict in terms that may better fit a previous generation?

Offhand, I can think of 2 places to start looking for ideas. First, Robert Putnam's book Better Together presents several case histories that show how today's corporations might empower their service-class workers. For example, the office workers at Harvard University had to figure out a new model of union organization in order to better their lot. Their solution set aside the usual confrontation-between-classes mode that worked well for miners and factory workers in mid-20th century America.

Second, I think that TIAA-CREF might be a model for pension management that takes advantage of large numbers and professional expertise but keeps the employer from raiding the fund for its own purposes. Like your standard pension model, the employer (typically, a college or university) contributes to an employee's retirement savings. However, the fund is neither owned nor controlled by the employer. A professor can move from one school to another with no loss of pension coverage. Unlike the 401 K model, TIAA-CREF can take advantage of economies of scale It does not expect every contributor to become expert in investing, nor to personally hire such an expert. TIAA-CREF has accrued a fine reputation in part because SOME of its contributory members ARE experts in finance, investing, economics, real estate.... Out of self interest these folks watch and judge TIAA-CREF performance; thus also protecting the English teachers and engineers who may know nothing about money. And the schools do not own the pension funds, so they are unable to raid them.

The tools needed to empower the service class (and preserve the middle class) surely go beyond unionizing and pensions. What examples are out there, and how can anyone build on them? Anyone want to talk about that?

Whitney Gunderson

The points raised by Gobstar and Seattle are interesting and I would like to question and discuss them.

Gobstar says: "It [the Black Country] was one of the birthplaces on the industrial revolution, and has suffered considerably from the ravages of industry, braindrain, provincial infighting and a reputation perpetuated by negative stereotypes in the media. I'm fed up of reading regeneration proposals that say the Black Country needs to attract professionals and managers in order to achieve a more mixed community."

Seattle says: "I totally agree with Gobstar. I am an information professional with a graduate degree from a working class background. I also happen to be African American. Having lived in all along the West Coast, I have come to think that Florida's true definition of the so-called creative class is just a euphamism for yuppies, bobos and the leisure class-- people who have inherited wealth."

Gobstar, does the Black Country really need to be regenerated? If the current proposals to improve the Black Country don't make sense, or you are sick about hearing them, what do you propose?

Seattle, you are a member of the creative class. The creative class is cut and sharpened in universities. You have a graduate degree and have had the experience of living in creative centers on the West Coast. If anyone would know the advantages of being able to participate in the creative economy, it would be you. Do you really feel unsettled when you go for a walk in your neighboorhood in the evening after work? It doesn't make sense that you can feel out of place in the same places that you have been able to be successful in.

And Zoe, I would love to talk about the service class. The service class is really a pretty successful bunch. Plus, the service class will be growing by the millions in the coming decade or two. The tools that work to empower one group may not work as well for another group, in other words, the service class might have to firgure it out on their own, and that might be best. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the service class, and it will be good overall if creative/service/working class theories and jobs will contribute to the wealth generation of the traditional middle class.


Uh, Whitney, I don't think you get to tell Peerless whether or not he/she feels out of place. Having also worked in high-tech in Seattle, I think I know what Peerless means. Overall, Seattle has a more-or-less typical racial mix for the Pacific Northwest, but among tech workers the mix is markedly different: more east/southeast Asian backgrounds, and less African American and Hispanic representation. A simple "percent visible minority" can't capture this. I knew African Americans who were professionally successful, but I wouldn't be surprised if (given the money they were making) they found themselves living in neighbourhoods where they stood out. (I was successful there too but as a foreigner never felt entirely welcome. After five years, I left.)

As for the larger discussion, I wonder if the first step should be to drop the term "class". It tends to be divisive and almost sounds "Brave New World"-ish (i.e. don't worry, Peerless, you're an Alpha).

To add another idea to Zoe's: there's a book called First, Break All the Rules that's mostly a management book but has some interesting studies on talent in a variety of jobs. The basic premise is that every job can be done to excellence -- they use the example of how great hotel maids approach their jobs in a completely different way from maids who are merely good. That requires more effort to match people to the right jobs, and more trust in allowing individual initiative, but the results (and the longer tenure of someone in a job that suits them) should justify higher pay and better benefits. I think a big part of improving service jobs is to get employers to recognize the short-sightedness of the lowest common denominator approach, but I don't see much progress on that front.

Whitney Gunderson

The question remains for Seattle. How can you feel out of place in the creative class and still enjoy the success of the creative class? It's an honest question that deserves an honest answer. Bringing up personal characteristics; like race, gender, age, sexuality, etc. don't count, because true members of the creative class are tolerant and don't judge people based on personal characteristics.

peerless in seattle

Thank you both Whitney and Matt for you comments. It is actually refreshing to know that there intelligent people out there who are discussing these ideas. I believe that Matt really paraphased my experience quite well. I don't mean to over-generalize or make mountains out of molehills. We all feel slighted from time to time: It is a part of being human and it is our civic obligation to have thick skin. That said, when things happen enough they feel like more than coincidence, they become patterns. What I noticed was that after returning from Vancouver to be closer to family, I had been more comfortable there because although were not many people of African descent there was a worldliness that seemed to create a generally more socially sophisticated populace. By this, I don't mean that everyone ate caviar, but rather that people's exposure to such a variety of cultures, experiences and perspectives made them (generally) more willing to deal with others as an individual. I am not painting the place as utopia because there were certain manyy social issues there just like any place. It seems that the U.S. is still turning out highly skilled professionals at a good clip but many of us suffer myopia even as the globe becomes smaller. If you are parto of the majority this is no problem. If you aren't then you must seek for progressive, diverse, cosmopolitan communities, colleagues and cities. My point is that, ironically, the whole creative class movement has manifested itself (in the US, at least) in the form of the already well-to-do majority moving from well-to-do enclaves in the burbs and converting once unique areas (the mission, brooklyn, harlem, central district) into not more diverse places but less diverse places. places more about private property and less about community. for me diversity (of class, culture, etc.) is not novel, it's a matter of survival. since i don't fit neatly into the box many information professionals in the US. I look for neighborhoods in the city where there is a mixture of people because that is where I find I am most welcome, most likely to not get treated suspiciously, despite my degrees and general overall good taste (just kidding). I find these areas a more and more hard to find inside American cities. Besides even if I were part of the majority I wouldn't want to live around only people who are all just like me. I happen to know wht I'd be missing. I hate to see cities becomes monolithic enclaves of the already well-off. And yes, even my European Canadian friends in Vancouver and Toronto lament the fact that their hometowns are becoming boutique cities that they can no longer afford. Is this really "creativity" or simply wealth doing what wealth always does. I know that will I likely move from the PNW which will be difficult because of loved ones. But my question is, when I get to Oakland or Chicago or Harlem will there anymore neighborhoods where puerto rican and blacks and filipinos and some thoughtful truly deal with one another? Or will it be like I said: wealthier (mostly White Americans) live in the cities now and everyone else lives in the suburbs? Will there be any cities where my neighbor might include a funny software engineer as well as a painting plumber? Because, you know, software enigneers are people too.

Whitney Gunderson

Some of the above comments are just shocking. First of all, does anyone want to admit to knowing what the difference between "east/southeast Asian backgrounds" is? Second of all, after all this talk of living in a post-racial society, here we are back talking about how whites live in cities and everyone else lives in suburbs. Everything I've seen says the sort process is based on educational levels, not race. Get an education, make money. It's alarming to hear people say they see a sort process based on race, because the research says the opposite. Third of all, there are still race issues in this country, but let's not make them worse by ID-ing races similarly to a DNA background search that goes back 400 years.

peerless in seattle

that's the point: for all the talk of it. what don't live in a post-racial world. changing you economic status and making more money does not yet change this, unfortunately. hate to break to you but this is a fact that some of us live with every hour of every day. regarding your concerns about "knowing what the difference between "east/southeast Asian backgrounds" is?" i am not really sure what you are referring to, i just picked random examples of people from various ethnic groups.

Whitney Gunderson

Hey Seattle. Matt says: "Overall, Seattle has a more-or-less typical racial mix for the Pacific Northwest, but among tech workers the mix is markedly different: more east/southeast Asian backgrounds, and less African American and Hispanic representation."

You said your Seattle experience was similar to what Matt described. So I asked if anyone wanted to admit to knowing what the difference between east/southeast Asian backgrounds is. So far no one has copped.

You say: "changing you economic status and making more money does not yet change this, unfortunately. hate to break to you but this is a fact that some of us live with every hour of every day."

That's not really a response to my comment that we should try to move beyond talking about race - and that true members of the creative class don't make judgements about other people based on personal characteristics.


East Asia and Southeast Asia are both listed in Wikipedia. East Asia is Japan, China, and Korea. (This used to be called the "Far East", but "far" from where?) Turns out I used Southeast Asia incorrectly -- I actually wanted to include India and Pakistan.

How can you assess the diversity of a population if you're not allowed to measure it? I'm not making judgements about individuals or groups (e.g. "Indians are great at database work" would be a useless and offensive stereotype). I'm not trying to guess why certain groups are better or worse represented, though I'll happily rule out genetics. I'm not suggesting affirmative action-type hiring. And I'm not digging back through 400 years of DNA -- because we're talking about companies that hire around the world, many of the people I worked with were born in those areas. Yet I can't restrict my comments to national origin because I rarely asked, "So, where were you born?"

It's nice to imagine that creative companies would be perfectly balanced, but they aren't. My point was that Seattle is diverse, and Seattle high-tech companies are diverse, but they're diverse in different proportions, and that those differences can be important.

The most obvious example in high-tech is women. (Surely I'm allowed to notice this difference.) In highly technical jobs, the percentage of women is typically in the single digits. One development team I worked with had one woman in a team of 28! It was not a sexist environment; as far as I know she never filed (or even thought about filing) a harrassment claim, and would not say she faced intolerance or a pattern of discrimination at work. But wouldn't you allow her to say that she stood out? That being the only woman in almost every meeting she attended was, at times, tiring? That she wished her work environment was a little more gender balanced? That, in spite of being treated with "tolerance" and respect, it is up to her to decide whether that is the best workplace for her? Because I've heard all those things from women in high tech, but I didn't dismiss their comments sexist or anti-male. I know from company statistics that women tend to have shorter careers -- they enjoy the work and put up with the environment for a while, but leave voluntarily at a faster rate than their male counterparts. (These are merely trends -- there are some men who grow weary of the work environment for the same reasons as many women, but of course there's no easy way to capture that in statistics.)

Whitney, you also asked "How can you feel out of place in the creative class and still enjoy the success of the creative class?" Other than the problem of under-representation, it's impossible (and, I'd say, highly undesirable) to isolate creative jobs from the community around them. I don't want to live in a neighbourhood with people whose education and values are just like mine; that would be dull. Yet I also don't want to live in a city where my values are rare. Even if I'm perfectly blind to all distinctions of race, gender, etc., if others aren't it will affect me. Broader institutions may make me feel unwelcome. And to go back to the overheard convesations in the original article, can you really feel at home if those conversations are often completely opposite to your values?

Just because a location has the "creative class" stamp of approval doesn't mean it's ideal or even acceptable for everyone working in the creative economy. Much of this theory is predicated on the idea that people in these jobs have flexibility in where they live and work, and so if they can find a better location they'll move. I moved to a city that makes me feel much more at home, but also one I believe is more inclusive overall. Obviously, not everyone feels that way, and so Seattle remains able to attract talent in the creative economy. But are some of the issues Peerless raises cracks in the foundation that could affect the attractiveness of Seattle and similar cities long-term? I say yes.

Zoe B

Whitney, I agree that the service class are a great bunch who are doing their best to improve their own situations, and that we can't necessarily do it for them. But we CAN notice new successful strategies, help to spread good ideas around, and find systemic ways to encourage (or stop discouraging) service class empowerment. Matt has offered a good resource to further the discussion. Thank you, Matt.


Exciting - it looks like there's a discussion going on that doesn't involve hurling insults.

To address the queries - yes, the Black Country is in dire need of "regeneration". In the 2001 census (the most recent) the area had the lowest number of people with qualifications gained after compulsory education in the entire country. It came 16th in the UK index of deprivation in 2007, out of around 400 Local Authorities. The number of business start ups (as measured by VAT registrations) is also the lowest in the region (the West Midlands, 5m population).

Yet one figure constantly shown to be an indicator that the area needs investment is the fact that manufacturing makes up a very large portion of its economy. This to me is an opportunity, not a curse - given rising oil prices, demand for renewable energy, waste treatment, recycling, more flexible production, regeneration attempts should be on promoting re-skilling and enterprise of the existing population; instead the area's leaders are busy promoting housebuilding on land left behind by closed-down factories - and it's the "aspirational classes" they are after by building 1 or 2 bed "apartments" (there's a class distinction here in the UK - they're called "apartments" when they're marketed at young professionals, and they're called flats when they were built for the public sector) or houses so large they're well beyond the affordability of most of the wages in the area.

Is this the Creative Class? I don't think so. The Black Country doesn't have city centres in the traditional sense (it was a largely rural area with plenty of disparate mining and metalworking villages that gradually amalgamated into a vast conurbation) so it probably will never attract the 30% that we're talking about.

Those "aspirational houses" will be full of people who just get in their cars and commute into financial and legal sector jobs in the neighbouring city of Birmingham (incidentally creating more congestion, noise and air pollution and community severance for the Black Country towns that they drive through).

So if you want my take on strategies for reinvigorating the economies of areas left behind (I imagine we're talking about the Detroits and Clevelands of the USA, but I don't know for sure), rather than compete for the same talent of insipid, bland and conservative style seekers (who can all stay in Austin, Texas as far as I care. They wouldn't last a second in Smethwick or Bilston: try asking for a latte in Dudley and I'd love to be there to watch. If you can find a café, that is.), promote grass-roots enterprise, social enterprise, cash-free trading systems, co-operatives, not-for-profit credit unions to fund them, public investment in growth areas for manufacturing (green technology, renewables, biomass, food production, recycling) and the skills necessary to develop them. Devolve governance to the street and let people come up with their own solutions to problems rather than relying on paternalism.

This constant talk of "we need to attract creative people" is frequently unerpinned (at least I get the impression people are itching to say it) by a sub-text of "the existing population needs to be gassed". I'm not for a second suggesting that this is what Richard Florida is saying, and of course I acknowledge parts of his work that addresses how to "deal with" those areas left behind; however, the message is easily mistranslated and misconstrued by those who haven't understood.

At least as far as the UK situation goes, certain sections of society will never ever be dragged to university, to the theatre, even to a bookshop, let alone eat a vegetable other than a fried potato. This does not make them bad people. There is already a wealth of untapped creativity here: in the realms of criminality and on its boundaries, in the ties and roots of heritage, family and community, and in tackling adversity, that simply has nothing in common with "creative culture", with science parks, with café society or with extreme sports. Trying to mould them into in-line skaters, or encourage them to take up engineering is going to fail every time.

As the saying here goes, where there's muck there's brass: it's just that we (urbanists, planners, regeneration professioanls)'re too focused on making brass without muck. It might not look good (or be safe) to someone seeking art, culture or coffee, but that's down to taste and your own socialisation. Just embrace the muck.

Zoe B

Regarding the new generation who will never be dragged to a university, our university town has a peculiar institution that might useful elsewhere. My town has a single high school that serves townies as well as folks in rural areas of some townships that have not yet been fully suburbanized. It is common for the rural kids to come from families who have been here since the Civil War (small beans for England, but a big deal around here). Our single high school has both a top-notch college prep program (satisfying all those pushy faculty parents) and a career technologies program that now offers training in a wide range of fields. I think it's wonderful. The preps and the vo-techs play on (or cheer for) the same football teams. The kids who are interested in engineering can take both physics and car repair - using two paths through the brain to teach the same concepts. The car-repair kids get exposed to more science and liberal arts than they might in a separate special facility. And the split between prep and vo-tech does not consistently correlate with the geographic origin of the individual student. My neighbor is a computer professional with a PhD. His daughter is a pastry chef. Some of the farming kids get really excited about the sciences, then go home and do natural experiments in their own fields.

With all of these curriculum options you could guess that there are over 500 pupils per grade. Kids who don't know who they are or what they want often try to be invisible, and a smaller school might notice them more. I have a friend - a 12th-grade English teacher - who devotes himself to the 'middle 40%'. He is a maverick, and there's not enough of him to go around. But there are a lot of creative ways to work on this problem.

As in any high school, the kids sort themselves into cliques. But they do grow up in as diverse a world as a college town can provide them. That is an education in itself.

Whitney Gunderson

It still strikes me as being odd that there is such a willingness, or sort of an untapped conversation, to elaborate on how personal characteristics differentiate people. It doesn't make sense to me to spend time and energy dwelling on personal characteristics that can't be changed, especially when our differences make the world a pretty interesting place. The differences, or the diversity, we are obsessed with in other people, are what allow us to accept ourself, to find our niche and to be successful. How we view the world as different than us, or percieve other people as viewing the world as different than them, is an individual-only point of view, there seems to be a over-driven demand to over-simplify and over-apply that point of view.


Peerless in Seattle, I applaud you for raising these issues. I Am also an African American, with a background in architecture, who has lived in Seattle and Vancouver. I currently divide my time between San Francisco, and B.C. ...There is a sorting, based on race, that occurs to a greater extent in U.S., even in the creative class and that is unfortunate. Those that are not part of a racial minority find this difficult to recognize because their perspective is from the inside rather than from the outside... Cities like San Francisco,and Seattle are become less diverse, and perhaps even less creative as all of the "energy" is displaced by gentrification. In the S.F. Bay Area, the real creative activity takes place in not in the city, but in the surrounding areas, and even these areas are under the pressure of homogization, and gentrification.

Whitney Gunderson

Here are demographics from San Francisco County, California and King County, Washington from Census 2000 compared to Census Estimate 2006.

SF County Population 2000-2006 Est. Change

American Indian or Alaska Native
2000: 3,458
2006: 3,067
Change: -391, -11.3%

2000: 239,565
2006: 236,497
Change: -3,068, -1.3%

Black or African American
2000: 60,515
2006: 50,012
Change: -10,503, -17.4%

2000: 109,504
2006: 104,575
Change: -4,929, -4.5%

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific
2000: 3,844
2006: 3,407
Change: -437, -11.4%

Other Race
2000: 50,368
2006: 35,151
Change: -15,217, -30.2%

2000: 385,728
2006: 394,265
Change: +8,537, +2.2%

Total Population
2000: 776,733
2006: 744,041
Change: -32,692, -4.2%

Age 25+ with Bachelor's Degree
2000: 267,992
2006: 291,564
Change: +23,572, +8.8%

King County Population 2000-2006 Est. Change

American Indian or Alaska Native
2000: 15,922
2006: 14,291
Change: -1,631, -10.2%

2000: 187,745
2006: 239,191
Change: +51,446, +27.4%

Black or African American
2000: 93,875
2006: 105,182
Change: +11,307, +12.0%

2000: 95,242
2006: 131,277
Change: +36,035, +37.8%

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific
2000: 9,013
2006: 10,827
Change: +1,814, +20.1%

Other Race
2000: 44,473
2006: 61,556
Change: +17,083, +38.4%

2000: 1,315,507
2006: 1,329,487
Change: +13,980, +1.0%

Total Population
2000: 1,737,034
2006: 1,826,732
Change: +89,698, +5.2%

Age 25+ with Bachelor's Degree
2000: 474,948
2006: 568,188
Change: +93,240, +19.6%

The sorting process occuring in the San Francisco region and the Seattle region is affecting minority groups differently. The population of most minority groups decreased in the San Francisco region, while the population of most minority groups increased in the Seattle region over the same time period.

In San Francisco County, total population decreased slightly, the population of minority groups decreased significantly, while the white population increased slightly from 2000 to 2006.

In King County, total population increased, the population of most minority groups increased significantly, and the rate of white population increase was less than the rate of total population increase.

The population of minority groups is decreasing in San Francisco County, along with the total population. The population of minority groups is increasing in King County, along with total population. To say the sorting process is based on race is not supported by this data, although the sorting process is affecting white and minority groups differently in San Francisco and King Counties. A slight homogenization effect is present in San Francisco County, but nearly half the population remains a minority race. King County is becoming more diverse.


One point to clarify; King County consists of several cities in addition to Seattle. Some of those cities, such as Renton ,are very diverse and becoming more so. When I first visited Seattle in my early twenties in 1973, every third person was blond, so things have changed a lot. San Francisco county consists of the city of S.F. - a relatively small area. Your observation about S.F. seems accurate, middle class people in general, along with African Americans are leaving at a high rate.

Whitney Gunderson

The main thing though is that the "sort" isn't race based. Santa Clara County, in San Francisco Bay Area; includes the cities of Cupertino, San José and Sunnyvale, experienced a slight population increase of most races, including African Americans from 2000 to 2006.

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, an up and coming creative place, had a population increase of over 100,000 people, an increase of nearly 20%, from 2000 to 2006. African Americans were responsible for over 43% of that population increase; 46,280 more African Americans lived in Charlotte in 2006 than in 2000. The number of people 25 years or older in Charlotte with a bachelor's degree is over 10% more than the U.S. average, and from 2000 to 2006, increased from 36.4% to 37.4%.

Saying that the creative class is a "euphamism for yuppies, bobos and the leisure class," or that the "Hispanic representation" in Seattle is decreasing, or that "cities are becoming monolithic enclaves of the already well-off," or that "there is a sorting, based on race, that occurs to a greater extent in U.S., even in the creative class" or that "those that are not part of a racial minority find this difficult to recognize because their perspective is from the inside rather than from the outside" or that "cities like San Francisco and Seattle are becoming less diverse" or that "middle class people in general, along with African Americans are leaving the Bay Area at a high rate" is wrong.


In terms of data from the Census you need to look at racial composition at the neighborhood level. According to what I have read there are few neighborhoods outside of military bases or near military bases that are really racially integrated. In the South a city can be 50% black and 50% white and from the city view look very integrated but from the neighborhood view where it actually counts it is very segregated.

I challenge anyone to name a city in America where neighborhoods are racially integrated in a large scale way. The reason I believe that Canadian cities are more racially integrated and welcoming is that in order to immigrate to Canada you basically need to already be successful, with at least $10,000 in cash to be "used" for your relocation. Basically you need alot of money to settle in Canada in the first place and the bottom line is that immigrants are welcomed because they are literally bringing in money to the Anglo Saxons and French people in Canada. That is why the treatment of immigrants is better than the United States.


From King County's annual growth report (http://www.metrokc.gov/budget/agr/agr07/07AGRCh1all.pdf) :

"In recent years, Seattle has become somewhat more diverse, but the dispersion of persons of color outside Seattle was the significant trend. At 22 percent Asian, Bellevue has the highest Asian percentage. South King County experienced the most dramatic increase in diversity, with minority populations doubling and tripling in several communities. Tukwila has the largest percentage of minorities, 46%. Burien, SeaTac and Federal Way have large Pacific Island communities as well as black, Latino and Asian populations."

The growing diversity is not uniformly distributed within the region; similar trends are seen in cities across North America. And creative economy jobs (and homes for those who fill those jobs) aren't uniformly distributed either. (The creative economy is not alone in the Seattle area: many jobs are in manufacturing (Boeing) and the military.) Do the two trends have the same distribution, opposite distributions, or is it a more complex story?

There are plenty more statistics we could dig up (e.g. the City of Medina, where Bill Gates and a bunch of other high-tech execs live, is home to exactly five African Americans, or 0.17% of its population, according to http://www.metrokc.gov/budget/agr/agr07/07AGRCh6c.pdf), but what's the point? Posting statistics here will not bring about a large-scale change, either way, in perceptions of the "creative class".

I take away two things from all the comments above:

(1) Tolerance may be a requirement for a creative place, but that isn't a guarantee of all kinds of diversity. (Notice that Richard Florida's Global Creativity Index ranks Sweden, Japan, and Finland in the top three spots; none of these countries are known for their racial diversity.)

(2) People's reactions aren't just based on theory but also the real-life examples they've been exposed to. There are shortcomings in today's creative places that the theory doesn't predict. If those shortcomings are seen in many creative places, they could point to a problem with the theory, or they could just be a reflection of external trends. In either case, it seems best to try to address those shortcomings by applying the theory, with tweaks if necessary, rather than arguing that they don't exist.


I know the Bay area and Seattle very well, I have designed projects throughout both of those metropolitan areas for years. It is difficult to argue about what has happened there with someone who may only have visited as a tourist...If you could have taken a walk in any residential working class/bohemian neighbourhood in San Francisco twenty years ago and then along those same streets now you could really understand why many are concerned about gentrification. Most of the artists, and bohemians (except the well heeled) have been squeezed out of the city! The beat poets couldn't dream of living in a North beach as it is now. Do you really think that middle class people, or young emerging artists, are going to pay seven or eight hundred thousand for a two bedroom apartment ? No, of course not, so they are leaving. ...This is not an issue with the creative class, it's really looking at the social problems in the U.S. that are like another category of issues that affects the creative class, along with everyone else. I want to avoid elitism when it comes to nurturing, and supporting the development of the creative class, and the referenced article for this thread had a bit of that attitude.

Whitney Gunderson

There was a challenge from my friend Robert to name a city in "America where neighborhoods are racially integrated in a large scale way." In the past, Robert has claimed that there is no future for America and that China is better than America because they have economic empowerment zones. I brought up that China was essentially a communist country with pockets of experimental doses of capitalism and Robert didn't respond. Officially, China is a Socialist country. But who's keeping score anyway?

The top ten creative cities, and their surrounding areas are all racially integrated.... maybe not in the way that everybody thinks is perfect, but they are racially integrated and tolerant. New York City has been integrating, note the increasing number of people moving to Brooklyn. Other examples of racial integration in the U.S. include Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Hispanics are majority in number, and whites who move in from the north are the ones who have to integrate – and usually enjoy doing so. Also, San Antonio, Texas and its creative class neighbor to the north, Austin, are admirably racially integrated. Remember though, integration is not tolerance. Furthermore, I don’t think many people stay home in their neighborhood all day, they go out and explore the city. Just because a neighborhood isn’t racially diverse, or integrated, does not mean that the city is not diverse. When residents aren’t being tourists, they go grocery shopping, they go out to eat at the weird restaurant across town or at the regular one across the street and they go to work.

I know that posting statistics isn’t going to change perceptions of the creative class. I hate statistics. But if the sort process that is currently going on was based on race, it would show in the census and census estimates. You can't say the sort is race based and then just expect everyone to agree. The more I look at census data, the more I think the sort is not raced based and the more I think that the sort provides tremendous motivation for all people to get an education.

San Francisco is too expensive for hippies and struggling artists. That doesn’t mean San Francisco is becoming a less diverse city. It means people who live and work there are getting rich, and what’s wrong with that? The hippies and struggling artists will reappear in places like Dayton, Ohio, where the industrial economy is tanked and the only way back to the top is through the creative class.

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