cities | January 29, 2013

The Great Divide: Richard Florida On (Creative) Class Segregation

"Although our cities are more than ever our most powerful economic engines," Richard Florida writes in a new blog series, "they also are becoming more divided along class lines, creating distinct experiences within a given city."
In the Business Insider post, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who's Your City? addresses these distinct divides between the working, service, and 'creative' class in New York.  One of the most notable factors he mentions is the segregation between upper and lower-income households. Not only are the two groups moving increasingly far away from each other, but Florida also notes that the share of middle-income neighborhoods is on the decline. This is a trend that he adds is also visible in large Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

In New York specifically, the creative class (composed of those with high-skilled, highly educated, and high-paying positions) tends to reside closer to the city center. The lower-paid service class workers (those who work retail or in the hospitality industry) tend live in the outer boroughs, in either Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Long Island. What he finds to be the most striking is that the working class (who work in factories, construction, or transportation) have virtually disappeared from the map.

There are strong, visible divides that exist between each class in terms of geography. This poses a problem, Florida believes, because cities thrive when people from all walks of life are thrust into close proximity. "While our cities may be increasingly diverse in terms of nationality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, they are becoming ever-more divided by class," he writes. And, this changing dynamic threatens the city's potential to thrive economically while also jeopardizing their social and political stability. These issues are what Florida focuses on in his highly requested and eye-opening keynotes. He argues that cities need to work together in order to thrive, and that we are at our most competitive when we are come together—instead of pull ourselves apart.

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innovation | January 28, 2013