Bohemian Index

Tyler Cowen asks: "Which are the least bohemian cities?"

"In the United States, I would name San Antonio as the most non-bohemian major city, or maybe El Paso, with Atlanta as a runner-up. Might there be somewhere very non-Bohemian in northern Florida? Does Richard Florida have an index for this somewhere?"

As luck would have it, I do -- at least for the United States and Canada that is.

We keep an updated Bohemian Index handy here at the Martin Prosperity Institute. The index charts the concentration of working artists, musicians, writers, designers, and entertainers across metropolitan areas. We measure it as a location quotient, which basically compares regional employment to the national norm, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and StatsCan. The table below shows the 10 most and 10 least bohemian large metros -- those with more than one million people -- in the U.S and Canada.

Los Angeles is North America's most bohemian metro, followed by New York, Vancouver, Toronto, and greater Washington, D.C. Rounding out the top 10 are Nashville, Salt Lake City (which may come as a surprise to some), Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, and Montréal. Several other metros -- Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Kansas City, and Las Vegas -- have Boho Index scores of 1.2 or greater. And, Boston, Cincinnati, San Diego, Providence, Ottawa, Milwaukee, Rochester, Orlando, Miami, and Calgary all have Boho Index scores above the North American norm. Large metros dominate the overall rankings of all 350-plus metros with the exception of Santa Fe: With a Boho Index score of 2.6 it actually tops the combined list of North American metros. Of smaller places -- Madison, Bridgeport, Lancaster, Eugene, Burlington, Lawrence, Tuscon, Provo, Green Bay, and Lincoln in the United States, as well as Halifax, Victoria, Peterborough, and Guelph in Canada -- all have Boho Index values above the norm.

But Cowen and his readers asked specifically about the least bohemian regions. That dubious distinction goes, hem...Riverside, California. Next in line are Hartford, Connecticut, and, perhaps surprisingly, New Orleans. This is not a result of Katrina. New Orleans has consistently ranked lower than expected on the Boho Index -- a fact which led to this lively back and forth in the New Orleans media some years ago. The reason is that the index measures only those for whom arts, music, and other bohemian vocations count as their primary jobs. No one doubts the bohemian bona fides of New Orleans, where many pursue artistic creativity outside of their primary occupation. Memphis (another place with a storied music history), Birmingham, Houston, Louisville, San Antonio (Cowen's hunch was right), Charlotte, and Jacksonville round out the bottom 10 large metros. Cleveland, Sacramento, Dallas, Buffalo, Denver, Virginia Beach, Baltimore, and Columbus, Ohio and Edmonton in Canada all have Boho Index scores less than the North American norm. Austin performs worse than might be expected, with a Boho Index score of .9 just behind Tampa, Detroit, and St. Louis. That said, the least bohemian places in the United States and Canada are all very small metros in states like Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, West Virginia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas, whose Boho Index scores are miniscule compared to those for large metros.

Cowen's original post started with a comment about Stockholm:

Johan Almenberg writes to me: "I have a blog request: a list of the top ten least bohemian cities in the world. Why are some cities more conducive to bohemian lifestyles than others? Does rent control result in more or less of this? I would love to read your thoughts and hopefully so would other people. Writing this from rent-controlled Stockholm which I believe deserves a place on the top ten."

The numbers suggest otherwise. My Swedish colleague and collaborator, Charlotta Mellander has compiled a full suite of our measures for Sweden's metros, including the Bohemian Index. It's important to recognize that her indexes are not directly comparable to the scores for U.S. and Canadian metros: They gauge Stockholm's share of bohemians relative to other Swedish cities. Still by any stretch, Stockholm 's Boho Index score of 2.7 is quite high -- higher, relatively speaking that is, than for any U.S. or Canadian metro.