Creative Class Density

In this, the third in my series of posts on density, I look at the density of the creative class. More than 35 million Americans are members of the creative class, making up roughly a third of the workforce. The creative class is a measure of human capital that looks at what occupations people work at rather than whether they earned a college degree. The creative class includes workers in science and technology, business and management, health care and law, and arts, culture, design, media, and entertainment.

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The map below shows the density of the creative class across U.S. metros. The median density across all U.S. metros is roughly 8.4 creative class workers per square kilometer. The densest metros have more than 140 creative class workers per square kilometer, while the least dense have less than one.

The chart below shows the 10 metros with the highest densities of creative class. The creative class density of these metros ranges from eight to almost 20 times the national norm.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008.

Topping the list is the greater Trenton area of central New Jersey (Princeton is within commuting distance to New York and Philadelphia) with 149 creative class workers per square kilometer. Greater New York is second with 147 creative class workers per square kilometer. Los Angeles (145), San Francisco (109), and Boston (100) each have 100 or more creative class workers per square kilometer. Bridgeport-Stamford (93), Greater Washington, D.C. (81), Honolulu (77), Philadelphia (75), and Chicago (74) round out the top 10.

The next map shows creative class density compared to what we'd expect based on population density. It's based on a residual analysis which compares creative class density to population density.

The next chart shows the 10 metros with the highest creative class densities relative to their population density.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008.

The Trenton area of Central New Jersey again tops the list, but now it is followed by New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Jose (Silicon Valley), Boulder, San Francisco, Bridgeport-Stamford, Ann Arbor, Durham, and Minneapolis. This chart again shows the high ratio of creative class workers to population in leading college towns.

So to what degree is creative class density associated with key regional economic outcomes? Our correlation analysis suggests that creative class density is closely correlated with regional wages (.59), income (.57), economic output (.496), and innovation (.405). (As usual, I point out that these correlations point only to associations between variables. They do not specify any causation or make any claims about the direction of causality. Other intervening variables may come into play).

The scattergraph above plots the relationship between creative class density and regional wages - a key indicator of regional wealth and productivity. The fitted line is reasonably steep and suggests a close association between the two. San Jose (Silicon Valley), San Francisco, Greater Washington, D.C., Greater New York, Seattle, Boulder, Ann Arbor, Denver, and Durham all are located above the line - showing even higher wages than their creative class density would predict.

My next post turns to a subset of the creative class, examining the density of artistic and cultural creatives for U.S. metros.

Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here.

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