Density Hubs Across the USA

By Richard Florida

Density is a key factor in innovation and regional economic growth. Over the past couple of weeks, I've looked at density of human capital, the creative class, and high-tech innovation. Instead of measuring these factors on a per capita basis, we looked at them in terms of land area, or per square kilometer.

The first map below plots the top 10 metros on each of the basic density measures, charting human capital, creative class workers, artistic and cultural creatives, patented innovations, and high-tech workers per square kilometer.

The second map plots the top 10 metros on human capital density, creative class density, artistic and cultural density, high-tech and innovation density, all relative to their population densities.

The maps are striking. They show how spiky and bicoastal this geography is. The highest-density places are clustered in the East Coast Bos-Wash region and in the West Coast in the regions around Silicon Valley and Greater Los Angeles. Outside of these locations, only Chicago, Boulder, and Ann Arbor rank highly on multiple measures. It's worth pointing out the prominence of Ann Arbor on the list, the home of the University of Michigan located just outside Detroit. Its relative concentrations of creative class density and human capital density rival the most innovative and propulsive regions of the country. Clearly, there are bright spots within the Rustbelt economy, even right next to some of its most intractable problems of economic collapse. Detroit does not rank better than 100 on any of the measures conducted.

This analysis is only a starting point. There is much more to do. Metropolitan areas - which span core cites and their suburbs - come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more concentrated at the core, others more sprawling. Our ongoing research at the MPI is developing new metrics and indicators of density within metropolitan areas - comparing central cities or urban centers to suburbs and probing the distribution of density across Census tracts and zip codes. Stay tuned for more.

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