Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

The Wrong Stuff? Creative Class Theory and Economic Performance in UK cities/Ce Qui Ne Marche Pas? la Theorie De la Classe Creative et la Performance Economique Dans Les Villes Au R.-U

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

The Wrong Stuff? Creative Class Theory and Economic Performance in UK cities/Ce Qui Ne Marche Pas? la Theorie De la Classe Creative et la Performance Economique Dans Les Villes Au R.-U

Article excerpt

Abstract

Richard Florida's 'creative class' theory suggests that diverse, tolerant, 'cool' cities will outperform others. Ethnic minorities, gay people and counter-culturalists attract high-skilled professionals: the presence of this 'creative class' ensures cities get the best jobs and most dynamic companies. This paper examines Florida's ideas, focusing on the evidence in British cities. Drawing on previously published work, it first tests the Florida model on a set of British cities, finding weak support for the creative class hypothesis. It then examines this hypothesis in detail. It finds little evidence of a creative class, and little evidence that 'creative' cities do better. The paper concludes that the creative class model is a poor predictor of UK city performance. There is other, stronger evidence that diversity and creativity are linked to urban economic growth.

Resumes

La theorie de la << classe creative >> de Richard Florida suggere que les villes diverses, tolerantes et 'cool' performent au plan economique mieux que les autres. Les minorites ethniques, des homosexuels et les contre-culturalists attirent des professionnels ayant des competences elevees: la presence de cette << classe creative >> s'assure que de telles villes attirent les meilleurs emplois et les entreprises les plus dynamiques. Dans cet article, on examine les propositions de Florida en mettant l'accent sur les analyses provenant des villes britanniques. En se basant sur des recherches deja publiees, dans un premier temps on met le modele de Florida a l'epreuve pour un ensemble de villes britanniques; les resultats appuient corroborent peu l'hypothese fondee sur la classe creative. Par la suite, on pousse l'analyse de cette hypothese plus loin. On trouve peu d'appui a l'existence d'une classe creative, et peu d'appui a l'idee que les villes << creatives >> affichent une meilleure performance economique. La conclusion est que le modele de la classe creative n'est pas un bon indicateur de la performance des villes au R.-U.

Introduction

A few years ago, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an instructive guide on 'How to Be an Intellectual Giant'. Amongst the advice on tone, subject niche, demeanour, how to title one's first book and cadge the next newspaper column, Brooks includes one crucial insight: be wrong. But be wrong in the right way--ideas should be eye-catching and controversial enough to get everyone paying attention. That way lies lame--or at least infamy.

Many would accuse US academic Richard Florida of being wrong in the right way. For cities and the urban policy world, the biggest idea for years is Florida's 'creative class' theory, as set out in his bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class (Florida 2003) and more recent sequel, The Flight of the Creative Class (Florida 2005).

Florida has a striking take on city performance: diverse, tolerant, 'cool' cities do better. Places with more ethnic minorities, gay people and counter-culturalists will draw high-skilled professionals, and thus attract the best jobs and most dynamic companies.

These ideas are novel, controversial--and for progressive commentators, politicians and policy-makers, highly attractive. On both sides of the Atlantic, Richard Florida's work has been met with much interest and some scepticism. Not surprisingly, Florida's ideas have taken him from academic obscurity to worldwide recognition, and the author has developed a new niche as public intellectual, consultant and urban policy guru. (1)

It is important to understand the creative class approach, and what it implies for cities around the world. First, because if it is correct, many countries' approaches to urban policy will need a rethink. And second, because--without much-needed examination or scrutiny--it is becoming part of the conventional wisdom about how to make cities work better. …

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