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July 29, 2008

We have recently moved the Creative Class Exchange.

Please update your bookmarks with our new address at www.creativeclass.com

We look forward to your comments and discussion.

Thank you.

July 25, 2008

Writing in the New York Times, Columbia University sociologist, Sudhir Venkatesh argues that it is time to shutter the US Department of Housing and urban Development and replace it with a new Department of Urban Development.

How could a program aimed at curbing inequality and helping the poor end up creating new pockets of poverty? The answer lies partly in HUD’s myopic focus on gentrifying urban cores. ... In correcting HUD’s missteps, we must first separate “housing policy” from “urban development.” Today, housing policy is dictated by private markets, so why not give the Commerce and Treasury Departments oversight of a single authority that administers Federal Housing Administration financing — needed to keep homes affordable for the majority of Americans — and all of HUD’s other housing programs?

Then, the development needs of our nation’s regions — wide areas like the Northeast corridor or Southern California — could be considered anew. ... Regionalism must be embraced, even if it tests local officials who fear losing their traditional sources of government financing.

Promoting coherent regional development will also entail linking urban policy concerns like community development and social services with work like rehabbing roads and building railways ... Americans live too spread out, and economic activity is no longer limited to downtowns. Community-based initiatives — from vocational programs to rezoning efforts to designing effective transportation corridors and recreational space — are sorely needed but will be effective only if they tie into a broader vision that anticipates growth on a large scale.

He's absolutely right.

UPDATE: Arnold Kling says not so fast:

Venkatesh then proceeds, rather naively in my view, to call for replacing the Department of Housing and Urban Development with a better department. First of all, failure only leads to exit in markets, not in government. Second, who is to say that the next generation of programs will not also be captured by special interests?

Richard Florida

Mapping Emotion


The map here is from a project by Christian Nold, a London-based artist, using technology to measure levels of stimulation.  Here's a project summary.

Bio Mapping is a community mapping project in which over the last four years with more than 1500 people have taken part in. In the context of regular, local workshops and consultations, participants are wired up with an innovative device which records the wearer's Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is a simple indicator of the emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location. People re-explore their local area by walking the neighbourhood with the device and on their return a map is created which visualises points of high and low arousal. By interpreting and annotating this data, communal emotion maps are constructed that are packed full of personal observations which show the areas that people feel strongly about and truly visualise the social space of a community.

Data are here. (via Mind Hacks, Corante)

I guess I picked a good occupation, or should I say occupations. Educators and authors are two of the ten happiest occupations, according to this 2007 University of Chicago study (h/t: Charlotta Mellander). Clergy top the list, however.  Psychologists are happy, as are artists, and sculptors; office supervisors;  and operating engineers. More here.

July 23, 2008

Richard Florida

Young and Professional

According to these Forbes rankings, the Texas Triangle of Houston, Dallas and Austin score 1, 2 and 3,  Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, Charlotte, and San Francisco all scored in the top 10. Take that NY, LA, Chicago, Boston and DC. My hunch is Forbes is giving way too much weight to "cost of living" in an era of front-loaded careers.  Their rankings of best cities for young professionals make a bit more intuitive sense. San Francisco took the top spot, followed by Minneapolis, Houston, New York and Boston. Washngton DC (which to my mind is a fine bet for young professionals as well as recent college grads) came in 9th.  One of the assignments in my economic development course ais to deconstruct Forbes' rankings of the best cities for business. Guess what their next assignment might be? (pointer via CEOs for Cities).

July 22, 2008

Richard Florida

Shiny Happy Jobs

In Rise of the Creative Class I posed the question of the machine shop and the hair salon, asking a group of my students in which profession they would rather work.  A recent UK survey (h/t: Charlotta Mellander) suggests my students are a very smart bunch. 

  • Hairdressers are undoubtedly the UK’s happiest profession>, ranking in the top two positions in every year except 2006, when they were usurped by DJs!  Beauty therapists have also ranked highly, in the top three for the last four years of the survey.
  • Both (hairdressers and beauty therapists) attributed their contentment to strong relationships with their colleagues.  Salon professionals also value having an interest in what they do for a living, which 100 per cent of hairdressers believe is important to on-the-job happiness.

It's worth asking what is about jobs like hair-cutting, cosmetology, and DJing that make people  happy. And as I argued in Rise, there's a lot we can learn from these jobs to upgrade the happiness quotient of other forms of work.

Richard Florida

Fittest Cities

The American Fitness Index ranks US cities.  Check out the interactive map.

That's the title of this Wall Street Journal report:

For much of the 20th century, the proportion of whites shrank in most U.S. cities. In recent years the decline has slowed considerably -- and in some significant cases has reversed. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases.

July 21, 2008

Richard Florida

Rise of the Cosmoburb

Robert Lang in the Next American City (via Planetizen):

"Cosmoburbs” is the term used in the forthcoming book “Boomburbs: The Rise of America’s Accidental Cities” to describe wealthy suburbs that are also diverse and that increasingly contain non-traditional households. Leading examples around the nation include Naperville, Ill., Plano, Texas, Bellevue, Wash., and Lakewood and Aurora in Colorado ...

In many respects, the Cosmoburb may be the coming America where race is part of the ambiance. Ethnic restaurants and shops with exotic goods draw people into these communities. In such places, it does not matter what race the neighbor is - as long as the lawn is mowed.

The new Cosmoburbs will be part of a global economy. For planners this means that suburbs should not be thought of as merely bedroom communities, but as new economic hubs for an increasingly “brain"-oriented economy .... Suburbs today don’t have less sophisticated economies than cities but are equal to central cities. This shift will require not only new thinking about design, transit and infrastructure in the suburbs, but also new thinking about how the suburbs can truly accommodate singles, seniors, the foreign-born and people of every color.

Richard Florida

NY State of MInd

Eric Torbenson provides a humorous dose of urbanism in in the New York Post:

Defibrillate the suburbs - if you can. The tenets of suburban life are the oxygen in the economic bloodstream, and the nation is suffering hypoxia. The reason a lot of folks think we're just getting warmed up on an economic swoon is that the global economy has neatly garroted all the drivers that make suburbs flourish.

For New York and other cities with respectable public transportation, it's still relatively good times; maybe too good. But have you found a seat on the subway recently?  New York City, already projected to expand to 10 million people over the next 15 years, will grow even more rapidly if these trends continue ... Is it any wonder that the greatest number of new housing construction starts last month - that's nationwide - were apartment buildings in New York City? ...

Wall Street's losing jobs, but with enough other urban industries, people can afford to buy - or at least rent - an apartment; sell that car and take the subway; cut up that CostCo card for groceries at the bodega. No more gas grills on the redwood deck. But hey, a kitchenette! Welcome to the new urban renaissance ...

Something tells me, though, as those huddled masses pour into the city by the thousands, yearning to breath free of filling up the Silverado, New Yorkers will have a political awakening. Nothing will be more important to city dwellers than hybrid or electric cars. Get these people green lightbulbs and energy-efficient vent systems. Send them back where they came from, to their Best Buy parking lots and Applebee's riblets.

Long live the suburbs! It's our only hope.



In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued that America was no longer a single country, but  two or more divided along the lines of social and economic class. Now, alongside Bill Bishop's, The Big Sort, comes a new American Human Development Index, modeled on the landmark UN report.  The Independent summarizes some of its key findings.

The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.

The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.

Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities.

"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said.

Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved since the 1970s.

Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the two groups.

Despite the fact that the US spends roughly $5.2bn (£2.6bn) every day on health care, more per capita than any other nation in the world, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of every western European and Nordic country, bar Denmark..

Using official government statistics, the study points out that because American schools are funded primarily from local property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.

"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living," said Sarah Burd-Sharps co-author of the report.

Although the US is one of the most powerful and rich nations in the world, the study concludes it is "woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life".


The report is here, some key factoids, and a series of maps.

July 20, 2008

Richard Florida

Where the "Brains" Are


This image from Ben Fry via Marginal Revolution  shows data from intelligence tests given to all NFL players. Centers and guards beat QBs with tackles close behind. What's going on with wide receivers, cornerbacks and running backs?

Money Quote: ""The closer you are to the ball, the higher your score."

Sort of like cities ala Jacobs and Lucas.

Richard Florida

Doctor Doctor

"When malls become a meeting place, it's a sign that a city is sick."

Enrique Peñalosa, urban theorist and former mayor of Bogotá, via Tyler Brule.

July 19, 2008

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Times of London, absolutely nails it (h/t: Bill Bishop):

Futurology seminars have long been obsessed with one question: what next after the internet? The answer is always the same, a new electronic gizmo. ...

Since the invention of the telegraph and gramophone, innovation is interested only in kit that yields profit. What is becoming plain, even under the strains of recession, is that the futurologist’s answer should lie in the realm not of electronics but of reality. It is in reality television, reality politics, reality entertainment and sport, the immediate, the active, the present, the live. The phenomenon is near-universal. People do not want to spend their spare time in front of the same screens at which they increasingly work. They want to “go out”. ...

What is happening is a reversal of history. Artists can no longer sell the products of their genius because the internet supplies it virtually for free. What can be sold is that genius in the flesh.

The whole story is here.

Experiences matter.  Authentic experiences, especially. Cities can provide them, and those that do so gain an edge. All part and parcel of the shift to the creative economy and society. We're tracking the transformation of the popular music and entertainment industries in one of our big, focal projects at the MPI. More to come.

Richard Florida

Stadium, Schmadium

Year after year, city boosters tell us building new stadiums at a cost of hundreds of millions or even a billion dollars will create jobs, bring back neighborhoods, spur development, build national buzz and image, and stimulate local economies. The evidence show this is mostly hooey. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Yost sheds light on one of the great public policy travesties of our time:

Yes, stadiums do create high-paying construction jobs for a year or two. But the vast majority of long-term employment is low-wage concession jobs. A Congressional Research Service study of the Baltimore Ravens stadium found that each job created cost the state $127,000. By comparison, Maryland's Sunny Day Fund created jobs for about $6,000 each ... A 1998 report by the New York City Independent Budget Office found no "economic rationale for assuming that building any new stadium would itself spur construction of office towers and hotels. Total output resulting from the presence of the teams in the city amounts to less than one tenth of one percent of the economic activity in New York City." ...

But perhaps the best argument against publicly financed stadiums is straight out of Econ 101: Opportunity cost. "What else could the city have invested its money in and what kind of a return would it have produced?" said King Banaian, chairman of the St. Cloud State (Minn.) Economics Dept.

While using public money to subsidize stadiums and sports is economics and bad economic development is most ever city, wealthy cities like NYC, DC, LA or Boston can to some degree afford such extravagances. The real tragedies are in smaller, older, stagnating rustbelt cities - like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis and others, where city revenues are terribly strapped and stadium funding takes away from pressing local needs from police and fire to schools and parks.  I am amazed and outraged that such blatant abuse of the public purse is allowed to go on.

July 18, 2008

Richard Florida

I'll Take ... Houston?

Urban economist, Ed Glaeser says NYC has a Houston problem. Houston has more affordable housing, less congestion, and easier commutes -all because of its "deregulated market", lack of rent control, and ease of construction.  Ryan Avent says not only is Glaeser wrong, he's contradicting his own research.

Richard Florida

Young Americans

Mark Thoma points us to new research by Elizabeth Casico and her collaborators on how young Americans stack up in the global competition for skills:

Young Americans entering the labor market today face substantial competition. Employers can look all over the world for workers with the skills to meet their firms' needs. Are young Americans ready for these challenges? ...This Economic Letter summarizes new research by Cascio, Clark, and Gordon (2008) (hereafter CCG) that uses data from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), fielded in the 1990s, to address this issue. The authors estimate the skill levels of 16- and 17-year-olds and 26- to 30-year-olds for the United States and other high-income countries. Consistent with other assessments of the school-age population, the IALS data show that U.S. 16- and 17-year-olds perform poorly relative to their counterparts in other nations. By their late 20s, however, those in the U.S. group in the IALS data compare much more favorably to their counterparts abroad, suggesting that they are able to "catch up" in college or beyond.

I find this research fascinating: It lines up completely with my personal experience. As a working class kid who had to hide the fact that I was "smart," my "skill level" and test scores at 16 or 17 would surely have lagged against many international competitors and middle-class Americans. But a Garden State scholarship and admission to Rutgers fundamentally changed my trajectory.  I made up ground very quickly and then continued along into and through graduate school.  I wish I still had my scores: But if I recall correctly, my GRE's were in the neighborhood of 400 or 500 points higher than my SATs.

I can't wait to see if they have subnational data for the US, and - hey wait a minute - any data at all for Canada. 

Richard Florida

Big Apple Bounce

It's been widely reported that US housing starts "surged" - rising 9.1 percent in June - after many months of decline and turmoil.  The seasonally adjusted rate of more than 1 million homes was seen to be a significant turnaround over a 2.7 percent decline in May.  Behind this shift was one anomaly - an extraordinary run-up in building permits in New York City before July 1st, when the city will enact new building codes as both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal report.  The Journal summarized it this way: "The gain was driven by soaring apartment construction, which was related to the New York building-rules change. Aside from the boost given by the building-regulation change, U.S. housing starts fell 4% in June." More evidence of the very differeent housing markets separating global real estate superstars from rustbelt regions, ex-urbs and overbuilt resort markets.

Richard Florida

Walkability Index

Walkscore.com has rated and ranked the "walkability" of more than 2500 US neighborhoods.  Here's the top 10. The site allows you to click on the city to get list of walkable neighborhoods. Nice maps too.

  • San Francisco
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle
  • Washington D.C.
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Portland, OR

Some obvious ones: NYC's Tribeca, Little Italy and Soho; DC's Dupont and Logan Circles; Boston's Back Bay, Beacon Hill and South End.  But it's a terrific to see LA and Long Beach on the top 10 list.

July 17, 2008

Richard Florida

Sorted Nation

Part Three of our "sorted nation" conversation, that is Bill Bishop and me, with Planetizen's Nate Berg is up over at the Planetizen site. Click here.

Richard Florida

Not Good


Image from Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas via Mark Thoma.

More here.

Richard Florida

Creative New Zealand

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Richard Wagstaff skewers a ANZ Bank report which divides government spending into productive and non-productive categories, placing culture along with other functions in the former category.

To make its point, the report divided government spending into "productive" and "non-productive" categories. Among productive spending were education, law and order and transport ...

Similarly, spending on culture is deemed "non-productive". Business professor Richard Florida would disagree. His book Rise of the Creative Class found that to succeed in a modern economy, cities have to attract creative thinkers. Auckland City Council has embraced this concept. Last year, it released a blueprint for growing its creative industries. The council says these employ more than 13,000 workers in Auckland alone and contribute $1.7 billion to the city's Gross Domestic Product. But even as New Zealand cities strive to compete with others world-wide, ANZ says helping cities to be more liveable through culture is "non-productive".

The full story is here.

July 16, 2008

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(Image from Business Week; data from Zillow.com).

Check out this image and more tracking the variation in housing prices within regions from Business Week based on data from Zillow.com.  Business Week's Prashant Gopal discusses them and more in this story on the "unravelling of the suburban fringe:"

BusinessWeek.com asked Zillow.com, which provides online home valuations, to analyze how home values have been holding up in large cities across the county compared to both inner and outer suburbs. The results are fascinating. Annual price changes in most of the largest metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, followed a similar pattern: Values were most stable within a 10-mile radius of the center of the city, but generally worsened with each successive radius ring as far as 50 miles from the center of the city.

Not all cities kept precisely to the pattern, in part because of the complications of geography. In Washington D.C., for example, prices started improving in the 40-mile and 50-mile rings, most likely because the area intersects with Baltimore and its immediate suburbs. Some cities, such as Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, San Diego, St. Louis, and Phoenix, did not seem to have any discernible pattern. And in other areas—Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and Reno, Nev.—the opposite phenomenon seems to be in play, with real estate values actually improving away from the city.

This seems to suggest a new spatial fix in the making, with consolidation and concentration and higher real estate values in the core areas of mega-regions and especially their hub cities, and  less reconcentration and a more general decline in real estate values in second and their tier cities, alongside more general real estate stagnation or decline in both urban and suburban locations. The pattern in Boston is intriguing: Why is it different than that for other metros in the Bos-Wash mega?  These pattern is complicated, a bit unclear, and emergent - it's still early in the game - but these data suggest it's worth further examination.

Any other thoughts?

July 15, 2008

Richard Florida

MPI Live

The new website for our Institute, the Martin Propserity Institute is live today. Thanks to Ian Swain MPI researcher, DJ and internet impressario, to the MPI team and the Mark G and the crew at Naked Creative for all their terrific effort.  We'll be updating and adding content over time, but the site is up and running. Send us any comments or suggestions

July 14, 2008

Richard Florida

Bubba on Bishop

Former President Bill Clinton warned Saturday that the country is becoming increasingly polarized despite the historic nature of the Democratic primary. Speaking at the National Governors Association's semiannual meeting, Clinton noted that on the one hand, following the early stages of the Democratic primary, "the surviving candidates were an African-American man and a woman." ...  But this achievement was overshadowed by a growing distance between Americans, said Clinton.  "Underneath this apparent accommodation to our diversity, we are in fact hunkering down in communities of like-mindedness, and it affects our ability to manage difference," Clinton said.

Clinton developed his 44-minute speech from themes he said he drew from a new book, "The Big Sort," by Bill Bishop. He cited statistics compiled by Bishop that found that in the 1976 presidential election, only 20 percent of the nation's counties voted for Jimmy Carter or President Ford by more than a 20 percent margin. By contrast, 48 percent of the nation's counties in 2004 voted for John Kerry or President Bush by more than 20 points, Clinton said.
"We were sorting ourselves out by choosing to live with people that we agree with," Clinton said.

The rest is here (h/t: Patrick Adler). Way to go Bill  - Bishop that is.

July 13, 2008

The great fire-sale of US assets continues. In the 1980s, it was Japanese and European companies buying up US factories, who incidentally helped restore their competitiveness. Then, there was the buy-up of great buildings and commercial real estate. Now, the the dollar down and weakened real estate markets comes the buying up of prestige properties in super-star markets from NY to Palm Beach.   The Wall Street Journal reports on the recent buying binge by the Russian super-rich:

As many of America's wealthy are roiled by the credit crisis and general financial gloom, a growing number of rich Russians are house-shopping -- and buying -- in costly U.S. enclaves.

Fertilizer mogul Dmitry Rybolovlev is set to pay nearly $100 million to Donald Trump for an oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., say people familiar with the deal reached in May. Last year, Oleg Baibakov, president of GSC City, a Moscow construction-management and consulting firm, bought a condo at Manhattan's Time Warner Center for $13.5 million, according to public records.

And in Snowmass, Colo., perhaps the most famous Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, paid $36.4 million in April for a 200-acre ranch. The property's massive, split-level house is five minutes away from an $11.8 million ski-in, ski-out house that Mr. Abramovich, owner of England's Chelsea soccer team, purchased two months earlier, records show ...

In New York City, foreign buyers now make up about 15% of the market, with Russians the largest contingent, says Hall Willkie, president of real-estate firm Brown Harris Stevens. "A few years ago we didn't see any Russians," Mr. Willkie says. "But now, especially at the high end of the market they are buying big apartments...so they are a significant factor." ...

Sergey Skaterschikov, a Moscow-based private-equity investor, is shopping for a house in Palo Alto, Calif., because his son will attend school in the area ... At a recent Sotheby's International Realty conference, agents discussed Russian as well as Chinese nationals as new markets for eight-figure homes, according to Washington, D.C.-based broker Daryl Judy ... In January, San Francisco-based brokers Misha Kurgatnikov and Victor Borelli met with a delegation of more than 100 Russia-based brokers representing wealthy Moscow clients interested in buying distressed luxury properties in California and Las Vegas ...

Russian developers also are getting involved. Mirax Group Corp. of Moscow has invested in 13 partially completed houses at the Aqua, a New Urbanist-style development near Miami's South Beach. The $75 million project will offer fully equipped homes, including linens, flatware and towels, aimed at Moscow-based buyers ... It hopes eventually to be involved in developments in cities including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas and Aspen, Colo., says Dimitry Lutsenko, a Mirax board member, via email. Security-related requests by Russian buyers are common, including underground parking, gated entrances and video cameras.

July 12, 2008

Immigrants Vivek Wadhwa reports on his research which shows how much foreign-born talent mean to the US economy and why US immigration policy is causing many to leave. Money quote: 'We need to do all we can to attract and keep skilled immigrants rather than bring them here temporarily, train them, and send them home."

In over 25 percent of tech companies founded in the United States from 1995 to 2005, the chief executive or lead technologist was foreign-born. In 2005, these companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers. In some industries, such as semiconductors, the numbers were much higher—immigrants founded 35 percent of start-ups. In Silicon Valley, the percentage of immigrant-founded start-ups had increased to 52 percent.

When we looked into the backgrounds of these immigrant founders, we found that they tended to be highly educated—96 percent held bachelor’s degrees and 74 percent held a graduate or postgraduate degree. And 75 percent of these degrees were in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The vast majority of these company founders didn’t come to the United States as entrepreneurs—52 percent came to study, 40 percent came to work, and 6 percent came for family reasons. Only 1.6 percent came to start companies in America. They found that the United States provided a fertile environment for entrepreneurship. Even though these founders didn’t come to the United States with the intent, they typically started their companies around 13 years after arriving in the country.

Most students and skilled temporary workers who come to the United States want to stay, as is evident from the backlog for permanent resident visas. Yet we’re leaving these potential immigrants little choice but to return home. “The New Immigrant Survey,” by Guillermina Jasso of New York University and other leading academics, found that approximately one in five new legal immigrants and about one in three employment principals either plan to leave the United States or are uncertain about remaining. These surveys were done in 2003, before the backlog increased so dramatically.

More here.

July 11, 2008

Richard Florida

The New Spatial Fix

My new Globe and Mail column is out:

The days of urban sprawl are over ...

... but not for the reasons you think

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

One of the few things increasing as fast as the price of oil lately has been the amount of commentary linking higher energy costs to the death of suburbia. Clearly, higher gas prices have affected where people want – or can afford – to live. Just as the demand for SUVs plummets and consumers have finally begun to see the point of hybrids, people are turning away from sprawling exurbs toward urban neighbourhoods and inner suburbs.

A recent report from CEOs for Cities, a group of U.S. business leaders, mayors and university presidents, declares: “Now that the era of cheap gas is over, demand for development on the fringe is down, and consumer interest and market potential lie in developing and redeveloping neighbourhoods closer to the urban core.”

“Could it happen in Canada?” this newspaper asked recently. While Canada is not suffering from the one-two punch of rising gas prices and subprime mortgages, it's abundantly clear that the same kind of shift away from sprawling suburbs and toward the urban core is under way from Toronto and Montreal to Vancouver and Calgary.

But what's happening here goes a lot deeper than the end of cheap oil. We are now passing through the early development of a wholly new geographic order – what geographers call “the spatial fix” – of which the move back toward the city is just one part.

Continue reading "The New Spatial Fix" »

Richard Florida

Lights Out

Writing in the New Statesman, Andrew Stephen compares the US crumbling infrastructure to conditions he observed during the collapse of the Soviet Union (via Planetizen).

The fact that I sat in my top-floor office in a puddle of sweat for most of the second week of this month because the air-conditioning had failed, for example, is hardly something I would expect the candidates to lose too much sleep over - even when the temperature inside crept past 110 degrees. For me, it all culminated in a visit from Bill, my friendly air-conditioning technician, on the morning of Friday the 13th.

What he told me symbolised much more than the strangely confused and angry mood that consumes America when the mere subject of "energy conservation" comes up. The ramifications went far beyond my usually nicely cooled, breezy office. Even America's outrageous hogging of the world's energy supplies - it comprises just 5 per cent of the world's population but uses 23 per cent of its energy resources - no longer seemed that surprising, let alone outrageous. It was what was going on around me and Bill as we spoke early that morning that brought home something I have been noticing with increasing alarm over the past two decades: the sheer fragility of America's crumbling infrastructures.

To my American readers: please do not get too angry with me when I say this, but the rapidity of the deterioration of your country's infra structures often reminds me of an extensive tour of the Soviet Union I undertook in 1986 - when I saw for myself, in places such as industrial Ukraine and Siberia and St Petersburg, that the Soviet Union had already had its day. For just as Bill and I were having our grim conversation early that Friday morning - and unknown to either of us at the time - the heart of the capital of the most powerful nation on earth, less than a mile from where we stood, had been plunged into the kind of chaos one might envisage in, say, New Delhi on a very, very bad day.

Having only been to Russia recently, I can't speak directly to his comparison. But, having lived in Washington DC I suffered through many, many power outages. Rana and I often remarked  that it felt like we were living not in an advanced country but the third world. We've yet to experience a single outage in Toronto, while her family's power was out for days upon days in suburban Detroit.

Richard Florida

Density and Politics

(Image from the Boston Globe )

Density makes places more Democratic. That's the conclusion from this map and the accompanying Boston Globe article (via Planetizen) by Robert David Sullivan:

The accompanying map shows where the electorate has grown the most over the past half-century - counties that in 2004 cast at least 10,000 votes and at least double the votes cast in the 1960 race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. In just about every major metropolitan area, Democrats are strongest in the center and Republicans fare best farther out, but the patterns depend on how long ago the suburbs began to grow.

In the oldest metropolitan areas, there are outlying counties that were solidly Republican in the 1960s and 1970s, but have trended Democratic as development has cooled down. (They include Barnstable County in Massachusetts. Southern New Hampshire, past its peak rate of growth, is heading in the same direction.) This phenomenon has had a significant impact on presidential elections. When California was one of the fastest-growing states, it was reliably Republican, but it became safely Democratic in the 1990s, when its population growth rate fell sharply ...

Sprawl has kept Republicans competitive at the national level, but the "frontier vote" may be reaching its limit. The rising price of gasoline and a soft housing market (made worse by the foreclosure crisis) have had more people questioning the value of long commutes and mansion-sized houses.

July 10, 2008

Richard Florida

Hmmm ...

Bill Fulton takes on Joel Kotkin's criticisms of Chris Leinberger's intriguing arguments about sprawl, declining suburbs and walkable urbanism:

Joel Kotkin is at it again. In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times Sunday opinion section, the enfant terrible of L.A. urbanism dissed the “suburbs as slums” thesis of Brookings’ Christopher Leinberger. But in once again coming to the defense of “suburbs”, he has revealed that he can’t tell the difference between Glendale and Palmdale ...

In a similar fashion to last summer’s debacle – when he decried Pasadena-sized densities as “Manhattanization” – Kotkin has now confused Glendale with Palmdale. He argued that Leinberger is wrong because people and jobs are not flowing to Downtown Los Angeles in huge numbers. He claimed that Leinberger and his sympathizers base their research mostly on anecdotes, rather than facts. And he concluded that “rather than cramming more people and families into cities,” high energy prices and similar trends “may instead foster a more dispersed, diversified archipelago of self-sufficient communities.” As examples he lists Burbank, Ontario, and West L.A. – all job-rich “suburbs” where commutes are shorter than they are in inner-city L.A ...

The inescapable conclusion is that Kotkin is about 30 years out of date. His mind lives in a ring of older suburbs that circle downtown L.A. – Burbank, the San Gabriel Valley, the Westside, Irvine, all built between the 1920s and the 1960s as residential suburbs. Kotkin always casts the “urban v. suburban” battle as a battle between Downtown Los Angeles and these “suburbs”.

The rest is here (via Planetizen).

July 09, 2008

Richard Florida

Florida, Florida

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrock asks:

What is the probability of a family having two girls if one of the children is a girl named Florida?

Alex notes it's a rare first name. Florida Florida - has a certain "ring" to it:-)

Richard Florida

Mapping North America

Obese_map_of_na_2 Ok, now I'm really excited.  One of our central goals here at MPI is to create integrated North American (that is Canada and the US) data-sets. And in our ongoing work, especially in developing the new Canadian edition of Who's Your City? we've been developing maps of North American data on various regional economic and demographic measures. So was I more than delighted to see the map above developed by David Eaves based on an original map I posted from calorielab (via strange maps and Andrew Sullivan). Eaves comments:

If Canadian provinces were ranked along side US States, they would rank 1st (BC), 2nd (QC), 3rd (ON), 4th (AL) and tied for 5th (MB) (YK) as the least obese provinces/states. Colorado would be the first American state placing 7th, with the provinces of NS in 8th and SK in 9th. PEI and NB would appear 15th and 16th and NL would appear 19th. NWT and NU would close out in 30th and 31st position. You can see the original chart at the bottom of this page. Actually even some of the grimmer looking patches of Canada’s map have a silver lining. The Arctic Territories, specifically Nunavut (NU) and the North-West Territories (NWT), appear obese and thus unhealthy. However, Statistics Canada notes that obesity criterion for Inuit populations should be more relaxed since a high BMI does not appear to have the same health risk for Inuit as for non-Inuit.

A group of Cleveland business, civic and policy leaders has launched a new initiative to attract foreign talent. The Plain Dealer reports:

The group of civic leaders and pro-immigration stalwarts seeks cash and support for its "Talent Blueprint Project," a strategy to attract foreign students, workers and entrepreneurs ...

Rust belt competitors are already moving to attract immigrant investment, under a unique visa program. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh are drawing tens of millions of dollars through immigrant investment centers. The program, run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, holds the promise of permanent-resident visas - green cards - to foreigners who invest in businesses that create at least 10 jobs.

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs, led by Mark Santo, is pushing for an investment center here. For distressed areas like Cleveland, immigrant investment could start at $500,000 ... He envisions an "H1B City" to lure workers from tech hot spots like Silicon Valley in California, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and Austin, Texas ... The region could offer free business space and play up its array of universities and low cost of living ...

Blueprint advocates, led by immigration lawyer Richard Herman, have joined critics nationwide of a program that caps visas for skilled, foreign workers at 65,000 a year. Congress lowered the cap from 195,000 in 2003 due in part to concerns that foreign workers were displacing Americans ...  "High Skill Immigration Zones" would attract skilled foreigners to fill job shortages, such as those in technology sectors. With the gathering of more foreign talent, high-tech companies.

Ed Glaeser, writing in the Boston Globe, notes their strong connection (via Mark Thoma):

Across countries today, there is a robust correlation between urbanization and democracy. This correlation reflects many things, such as the tendency of more urban places to be richer and better educated, but it also surely reflects the role that cities play in supporting the coordinated action that creates and defends democracies

July 08, 2008

Richard Florida

Celebrating Pittsburgh


This New York Times Sunday Travel piece celebrates the Pittsburgh I know and love.  Writer, Jeff Schlegel hones in some of the city's true gems.

Pittsburgh has undergone a striking renaissance from a down-and-out smokestack to a gleaming cultural oasis. But old stereotypes die hard, and Pittsburgh probably doesn’t make many people’s short list for a cosmopolitan getaway. Too bad, because this city of 89 distinct neighborhoods is a cool and — dare I say, hip—city. There are great restaurants, excellent shopping, breakthrough galleries and prestigious museums. The convergence of three rivers and surrounding green hills also make it a surprisingly pretty urban setting. And if the Pirates are in town, head over to PNC Park. Besides the game, the ballpark offers a great excuse to explore downtown Pittsburgh and the river views.

The slide show is terrific. (Image of the Mattress Factory from the NY Times).

Clive Crook in the Financial Times:

A startling and profoundly important fact about the US economy has received surprisingly little attention. The educational quality of the country’s workers is starting to decline – not just relatively (because other countries are catching up and moving ahead) but also, for the first time, in absolute terms. Over the coming years, baby-boomers departing from the labour force will have better educational qualifications than the younger workers replacing them. If the ultimate source of an economy’s ability to grow and prosper is its human capital, the US is in trouble.

For decades the educational quality of the US labour force surged. In 1940, less than 5 per cent of the population aged 25-64 had at least a four-year college education. By 2000, the proportion had increased to nearly 30 per cent. Successive generations of workers improved on the educational attainments of their predecessors. Retiring workers were replaced by better-educated youngsters. This remorseless accumulation of human capital helped fuel the country’s postwar growth. According to at least one authoritative study, it was the principal driver.

This trend came to a halt with workers now aged 55-59. Younger cohorts are no better educated than these soon-to-retire boomers. Broadly speaking, educational quality has topped out – and on at least one measure, it is actually deteriorating. In 2006, Americans aged 55-59 collectively possessed more masters degrees, professional degrees and doctorates than Americans aged 30-34. This impending loss of educational capital is entirely outside the country’s experience.

The numbers come from a recent study by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics: The Accelerating Decline in America’s High-Skilled Workforce: Implications for Immigration Policy. As the title suggests, Mr Kirkegaard is chiefly concerned with the US visa system, which discriminates in a variety of ways against high-skilled immigrants. Easier entry of immigrants with scarce skills – for which high-tech employers such as Intel, Microsoft and others tirelessly plead – is the quickest and easiest fix and Mr Kirkegaard makes an unanswerable case for it. But the deeper problem, as he notes, lies with the education system. What is going on?

The US has always depended on "imported" talent at both the high and low end.  Superb universities, strong research institutions and vibrant high-tech industries primed the pump of this system.  But the problem runs far deeper through the education and development pipeline and as James Coleman and collaborators have pointed out right down to the early-childhood development system.  What's going on, indeed?

July 07, 2008


Phillip Jeffrey has posted pictures and notes from my June 5th talk for Research in Society Lectures at the 77th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Congress 2008) at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Richard Florida

Fatness Index


Source: Strange Maps (via Andrew Sullivan).

Richard Florida


Sacramento has developed a new blueprint for density. The Wall Street Journal reports:

For decades, backers of "smart-growth" planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution. Several communities built from scratch upon those principles, such as Celebration in Florida, sprouted across the country. But they were often isolated experiments, connected to their surroundings mainly by car. So, as gasoline remained cheap, the rest of the country continued its inexorable march toward bigger houses and longer commutes.

Now, smart-growth fans see a chance to reverse that ... Over the past 50 years, cheap gasoline has encouraged developers to build communities further and further away from city cores. Now, city planners are experimenting with "smart growth" that keeps work and shopping close to home.

Sacramento -- yoked to the car and mired in one of the lousiest housing markets in the country -- offers an intriguing laboratory for that idea. Four years ago, just as oil was gaining momentum in its torrid climb to $140 a barrel and beyond, the six-county region adopted a plan for growth through 2050 that roped off some areas from development while concentrating growth more densely in others, emphasizing keeping jobs near homes. The local governments in the area aren't compelled to follow the so-called Blueprint, but the plan -- backed by a strange-bedfellows coalition of ordinary citizens, politicians, developers and environmentalists -- shows signs of working, nonetheless.

Sacramento benefits immensely not just from being the state capitol but from its location in the Nor-Cal mega - an affordable one at that. Oh ... and time costs, not just oil ...