Creative class

Creative class

The Creative Class is a socioeconomic class that economist and social scientist Richard Florida, a professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, identifies as a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities in the United States. The creative class and creative economy monikers were coined on rec.arts.fine usenet group on the internet in 1994 - 1998 by artist Mattison Fitzgerald. Now we see a burgeoning of her thesis all over the creative arts world.

Florida describes the Creative Class as comprising 40 million workers—30 percent of the U.S. workforce—and breaks the class into two broad sections, derived from Standard Occupational Classification System codes:

  • Super-Creative Core: This group comprises about 12 percent of all U.S. jobs. It includes a wide range of occupations (e.g. science, engineering, education, computer programming, research), with arts, design, and media workers forming a small subset. Florida considers those belonging to this group to “fully engage in the creative process” (2002, p. 69). The Super-Creative Core is considered innovative, creating commercial products and consumer goods. The primary job function of its members is to be creative and innovative. “Along with problem solving, their work may entail problem finding” (Florida, 2002, p. 69).
  • Creative Professionals: These professionals are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education. They “draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems” using higher degrees of education to do so (Florida, 2002).

In addition to these two main groups of creative people, the usually much smaller group of Bohemians is also included in the Creative Class.

Florida concludes that the Creative Class will be the leading force of growth in the economy, and is expected to grow by over 10 million jobs in the next decade.



The social theories advanced by Florida have sparked much debate and discussion. Florida's work proposes that a new or emergent class—or demographic segment made up of knowledge workers, intellectuals and various types of artists—is an ascendant economic force, representing either a major shift away from traditional agriculture- or industry-based economies or a general restructuring into more complex economic hierarchies.

The theses developed by Florida in various publications were drawn from, among other sources, U.S. Census Bureau demographic data, focusing first on economic trends and shifts apparent in major U.S. cities, with later work expanding the focus internationally.

The nebulous Creative Class has been on the rise for at least four decades, with a shift towards technology, research and development, and the internet (and related fields) occurring in the postwar economies of many countries.

A number of specific cities and regions (including California's Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128, The Triangle in North Carolina, Austin, Seattle, Bangalore, Dublin and Sweden) have come to be identified with these economic trends. In Florida's publications, the same places are also associated with large Creative Class populations.

Florida argues that the Creative Class is socially relevant because of its members' ability to spur regional economic growth through innovation (2002).

Creative Class occupations

Florida says that the Creative Class is a class of workers whose job is to create meaningful new forms (2002). It is composed of scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and architects, and also includes "people in design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content” (Florida, 2002, p. 8). The designs of this group are seen as broadly transferable and useful. Another sector of the Creative Class includes positions that are knowledge intensive; these usually require a high degree of formal education (Florida, 2002). Examples of workers in this sector are health professionals and business managers, who are considered part of the sub-group called Creative Professionals. Their primary job is to think and create new approaches to problems. Creativity is becoming more valued in today’s global society. Employers see creativity as a channel for self-expression and job satisfaction in their employees. About 38.3 million Americans and 30 percent of the American workforce identify themselves with the Creative Class. This number has increased by more than 10 percent in the past 20 years.

The Creative Class is also known for its departure from traditional workplace attire and behavior. Members of the Creative Class may set their own hours and dress codes in the workplace, often reverting to more relaxed, casual attire instead of business suits and ties. Creative Class members may work for themselves and set their own hours, no longer sticking to the 9–5 standard. Independence is also highly regarded among the Creative Class and expected in the workplace (Florida, 2002).

The Creative Class and the global economy

The Creative Class is not a class of workers among many, but a group believed to bring economic growth to countries that can attract its members. The economic benefits conferred by the Creative Class include outcomes in new ideas, high-tech industry and regional growth. Even though the Creative Class has been around for centuries, the U.S. was the first large country to have a Creative Class dealing with information technology, in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1960s less than five percent of the U.S. population was part of the Creative Class, a number that has risen to 26 percent. Seeing that having a strong Creative Class is vital in today’s global economy, Europe is now almost equal with America's numbers for this group. Inter-city competition to attract members of the Creative Class has developed.

Following an empirical study across 90 nations, Rindermann, Sailer and Thompson (2009) argued that high-ability classes (or smart classes) are responsible for economic growth, stable democratic development, and positively valued political aspects (government effectiveness, rule of law, and liberty).

Places of high Creative Class populations

Florida's use of census and economic data, presented in works such as The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Cities and the Creative Class (2004), and The Flight of the Creative Class (2007), as well as Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks (whose "bobos" roughly correspond to Florida's Creative Class), and NEO Power by Ross Honeywill (whose NEOs deliver a more sophisticated level of evidence), has shown that cities which attract and retain creative residents prosper, while those that do not stagnate. This research has gained traction in the business community, as well as among politicians and urban planners. Florida and other Creative Class theorists have been invited to meetings of the National Conference of Mayors and numerous economic development committees, such the Denver mayor's Task Force on Creative Spaces and Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm's Cool Cities Initiative.[1]

In Cities and the Creative Class, Florida devotes several chapters to discussion of the three main prerequisites of creative cities (though there are many additional qualities which distinguish creative magnets). For a city to attract the Creative Class, he argues, it must possess "the three 'T's": Talent (a highly talented/educated/skilled population), Tolerance (a diverse community, which has a 'live and let live' ethos), and Technology (the technological infrastructure necessary to fuel an entrepreneurial culture). In Rise of the Creative Class", Florida argues that members of the Creative Class value meritocracy, diversity and individuality, and look for these characteristics when they relocate (2002).

As Florida demonstrates in his books, Buffalo, New Orleans and Louisville are examples of cities which have tried to attract the Creative Class but, in comparison to cities which better exemplify the "three 'T's", have failed. Creative Class workers have sought out cities that better accommodate their cultural, creative, and technological needs, such as Chapel Hill, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, Toronto, Ontario and Portland, Oregon. Florida also notes that Lexington and Milwaukee, Wisconsin have the ingredients to be a "leading city in a new economy".

The “Creativity Index” is another tool that Florida uses to describe how members of the Creative Class are attracted to a city. The Creativity Index includes four elements: “the Creative Class share of the workforce; innovation, measured as patents per capita; high tech industry, using the Milken Institute's widely accepted Tech Pole Index…; and diversity, measured by the Gay Index, a reasonable proxy for an area’s openness" (2002, pp. 244–5). Using this index, Florida rates and ranks cities in terms of innovative high-tech centers, with San Francisco being the highest ranked (2002).

Florida and others have found a strong correlation between those cities and states that provide a more tolerant atmosphere toward culturally unconventional people, such as gays, artists, and musicians (exemplified by Florida's "Gay Index" and "Bohemian Index" developed in The Rise of the Creative Class), and the numbers of Creative Class workers that live and move there (2002).

Research involving the preferences and values of this new socioeconomic class has shown that where people choose to live can no longer be predicted according to conventional industrial theories (such as "people will go to where the jobs/factories are"). Sociologists and urban theorists have noted a gradual and broad shift of values over the past decade. Creative workers are looking for cultural, social, and technological climates in which they feel they can best "be themselves".


The diverse and individualistic lifestyles enjoyed by the Creative Class involve active participation in a variety of experiential activities. Florida (2002) uses the term Street Level Culture to define this kind of stimulation. Street Level Culture may include a “teeming blend of cafes, sidewalk musicians, and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between participant and observer, or between creativity and its creators” (p. 166). Members of the Creative Class enjoy a wide variety of activities (e.g., traveling, antique shopping, bike riding, and running) that highlight the collective interest in being participants and not spectators (Florida, 2002).


Numerous studies have found fault with the logic or empirical claims of the Creative Class theory. Hoyman and Faricy (2009), using Florida’s own indices, find no statistical evidence that cities with higher proportions of Creative Class workers correlated with any type of economic growth from 1990–2004. In "Urban Development and the Politics of the Creative Class", Ann Markusen (2006) argues that workers qualified as being in the Creative Class have no concept of group identity, nor are they in occupations that are inherently creative. Markusen also notes that the definition of the Creative Class is based largely on educational attainment, suggesting that Florida’s indices become insignificant after controlling for education (p. 1923). Jamie Peck's (2005) "Struggling with the Creative Class" argues that the Creative Class theory offers no causal mechanism and suffers from circular logic. John Montgomery (2005) writes that “what Florida has devised is a set of indices which simply mirror more fundamental truths about creative milieux or dynamic cities” (p. 339). Montgomery also disagrees with the cities that Florida designates as most creative, writing that London, not Manchester and Leicester, should be one of the top in the U.K. A critique of Florida's research and theoretical framework has been developed by Matteo Pasquinelli (2006) in the context of Italian Operaismo.

Creative Class Struggle, a Toronto-based collective, has brought these criticisms outside academic circles, challenging Florida's Creative Class theories as well as their widespread adoption into urban policy. The group manages an online clearinghouse for information about creative city strategies and policies, publishes a newsletter and other materials, and works to engage the media and public in critical discussion.[2] In June 2009, Creative Class Struggle and art magazine Fuse organized a public forum in Toronto to debate these issues.[3]

See also



  • On the Poverty of Experts: Between Academization and Deprofessionalization. Hartmann, Heinz, Hartmann, Marianne. 1982, vol 34, iss 2, pg 193
  • Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: And How it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York: Perseus Book Group
  • Fussell, Paul. Class, especially chapter titled "Class X". 1983.
  • Hoyman, Michele and Christopher Faricy. 2009. "It Takes a Village: A Test of the Creative Class, Social Capital and Human Capital Theories", Urban Affairs Review, 44:311-333.
  • Long, Joshua. 2010. Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press.
  • Markusen, A. 2006. Urban development and the politics of the creative class: Evidence from the study of artists. Environment and Planning A, 38 (1): 1921-1940.
  • Montgomery, J. (2005). Beware ‘the Creative Class’. Creativity and Wealth Creation Revisited. Local Economy, Vol. 20, No. 4, 337–343, November 2005
  • Peck, J. 2005. Struggling with the creative class. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29 (4): 740-770.
  • Ray, Paul H. and Sherry Ruth Anderson. The Cultural Creative. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000
  • Rindermann, Heiner, Michael Sailer and James Thompson, 2009. The impact of smart fractions, cognitive ability of politicians and average competence of peoples on social development. Talent Development and Excellence 1 (1): 3-25.
  • Rindermann, Heiner, and James Thompson, 2011. Cognitive capitalism: The effect of cognitive ability on wealth, as mediated through scientific achievement and economic freedom. Psychological Science 22 (6): 754-763.

Web references

  • Cleveland, Harlan. “After Affluence, What?”. October 1977. Aspen Instit Humanistic Studies November 3, 2005. [1]
  • Saenz, Tara Keniry. “Portraits of U.S. High-Technology Metros: Income Stratification of Occupational Groups from 1980-2000”. March 2005. U Texas, Austin November 31, 2005. [2]

External links

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