cities | March 21, 2013

Talent Clusters: Cities Speaker Richard Florida On The Creative Class

"The past couple of decades have seen America sort itself into two distinct nations," cities speaker Richard Florida writes in an Atlantic Cities article, "as the more highly skilled and affluent have migrated to a relatively small number of cities and metro areas." It has become a trend for smart, educated people to assemble in areas where a large percentage of the population has college degrees. This creates what he refers to as "talent clusters." In research that Florida has conducted with Charlotta Mellander and the Martin Prosperity Institute team, he hopes to discover who benefits and who loses out due to this clustering effect.

Florida's initial findings suggest that there are limited trickle-down benefits from talent clustering. "Its benefits flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers whose higher wages and salaries are more than sufficient to cover more expensive housing in these locations," he writes. "While less-skilled service and blue-collar workers also earn more money in knowledge-based metros, those gains disappear once their higher housing costs are taken into account." He does note, however, that these are only preliminary findings and there is much left to be uncovered. And, he adds, there are some positive implications of this new economic geography pattern, as well. For example, "bigger metros bring powerful clustering and agglomeration effects; they have faster metabolisms and greater rates of innovation. Improved productivity translates to higher wages across the board, as countless studies have shown." The problem, however, is that housing prices and cost of living are also higher in these clustered cities—creating an inequality gap in the knowledge-based population.

"Inequality in America," he concludes, "thus extends far beyond income to include the basic conditions that determine and reinforce avenues for upward mobility and future economic success in the long run." Florida is an expert on the impact that creativity and urbanism has on the global economy. Author of the breakthrough book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida's work applies both to the academic and business sectors. In his keynotes, he helps communities tap into their creative potential, and provides businesses with the tools they need to stay competitive in this creative age.

Up Next

economics | March 20, 2013