The Density of Artistic and Cultural Creatives

My past several posts have looked at the density of key variables across America's metropolitan regions. Today, I turn to the density of a subset of the creative class - the density of artists and cultural creatives. My own earlier research, which landed me on "The Colbert Report" of all places, showed that metros with higher proportions of employed artistic and cultural workers also have higher incomes, higher rates of innovation, and higher housing prices. The reason is not that artistic and cultural creatives are more likely to launch new businesses or invent new products, but that their location in an area signals that a community is open to diverse groups of people who are open to new ideas and self-expression. The concentration of artistic and cultural creatives in a place is a sign of a local ecosystem that is more conducive to generating new ideas and mobilizing resources around them.

MORE ON Density:
Richard Florida: Creative Class Density
Richard Florida: Human Capital Density
Richard Florida: The Power of Density

Our measure for the density of artistic and cultural creatives is the number of artistic and cultural creative workers per square kilometer. The map below shows the density of artistic and cultural creatives across U.S. metro regions. The median density of artistic and cultural creatives across all U.S. metros is only .08 per square kilometer. The densest metros have more than four artistic and cultural creatives per square kilometer, while the average metro has less than a tenth of a cultural worker.

The chart below shows the 10 densest metros in terms of artistic and cultural creatives. The density of these metros ranges from 12 to almost 40 times the national norm.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008.

Topping the list is Los Angeles with 4.7 artistic and cultural creatives per square kilometer, followed closely by New York with 4.4 per square kilometer. San Francisco (2.2), Bridgeport-Stamford (1.6), Greater Boston (1.5), Trenton (1.5), Greater Washington, D.C. (1.4), Honolulu (1.3), Milwaukee (1.2), and Chicago (1.2) round out the top 10.

The next map shows the density of artistic and cultural creatives compared to what their population density would predict based on a residual analysis.

The next chart lists the 10 metros which have the highest density of artistic and cultural creatives compared to what we'd expect based on their population density.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008.

Los Angeles again tops the list, followed closely by greater New York. Greater Washington, D.C. is third, followed by San Francisco and Minneapolis. But now Santa Fe (a center for visual artists), Nashville (a center for music), Madison, and - surprisingly - Salt Lake City enter the top 10 alongside Greater Boston.

So to what degree is the density of artistic and cultural creatives associated with key regional economic outcomes? Our correlation analysis suggests that the connection is strong. The density of artistic and cultural creatives is closely correlated with regional income (.614), wages (.622), output (.533), and innovation (.431). (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. And, of course, other intervening variables may come into play).

The scattergraph above plots the relationship between the density of artistic and cultural creatives 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., the Trenton area of Central New Jersey, Boulder, Ann Arbor, and L.A. all are located above the line - showing even higher wages than their high density of artistic and cultural creatives would predict.

In my next post, I turn my attention to the density of high-tech innovation.

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.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Business

From This Author

Just In