April 3, 2014

Even Richard Florida admits he was wrong

Michelle Goldberg, Nation

In the 1980s and ’90s, a number of American cities started booming again, attracting the elite knowledge workers whom celebrity urban theorist Richard Florida famously dubbed the “creative class.” (In Florida’s formulation, that category includes people in finance, law, business and technology as well as the media, academia and the arts—basically, anyone in a high-status job that requires a lot of thinking.) There are many theories about why certain cities turned around, but Florida’s notion of hipness as an economic accelerant was particularly influential. In the preface to his bestselling 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, he wrote that “rather than being driven exclusively by companies, economic growth was occurring in places that were tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity—because these were places where creative people of all types wanted to live.”
The upshot of this theory was that cities could prosper by making themselves attractive to trendsetters and yuppies. Across the country, civic leaders took Florida’s ideas to heart, striving to make their cities hipster-friendly in the hope that it would bring economic revitalization. (Many hired Florida’s consulting firm to help.) Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, in her 2004 State of the State address, hailed it as “a bottom-up movement in which nearly eighty of our communities have local commissions on cool that are uncorking the bottle of creativity…planning everything from bike paths to bookstores to attract more people and new businesses.” But Jamie Peck, a University of British Columbia geography professor and one of Florida’s harshest critics, pointed out that Michigan found money for a “Cool Cities” program even as it enacted the largest spending cuts in its history.
Not surprisingly, the bureaucratic effort to engineer “cool” has failed to bring economic relief to hard-pressed urban areas. It soon became clear that even in thriving meccas of the creative class like New York, Austin and San Francisco, the economic gains made by the young professionals Florida celebrated weren’t trickling down to others. “The benefits of highly skilled regions accrue mainly to knowledge, professional, and creative workers,” Florida wrote in a 2013 Atlantic Cities piece, acknowledging what his left-wing critics had been saying for years. “While less-skilled blue-collar and service workers also earn more in these places, more expensive housing costs eat away those gains. There is a rising tide of sorts, but it only lifts about the most advantaged third of the workforce, leaving the other 66 percent much further behind.”

1 comment:

greg said...

I hope they figure this out in Rhode island