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Richard Florida on the Creative Class

Richard Florida, and his colleagues in Martin Prosperity Institute published two papers on the Creative Class concept entitled “The Creative Class Paradigm’ and “The Creative Class, Post-Industrialism and the Happiness of Nations’

The Creative Class Paradigm

The Rise of the Creative Class (2002, hereafter Rise) has enjoyed unusual impact both on the practice of economic development and on academic debate. It has been less than a decade since the book was published and it already stands as one of the most referenced texts in economic development and urban sociology. A Google Scholar search in early 2010, showed that 2584 subsequent works had cited it to that point, edging out Jane Jacobs’ (1969) seminal The Economy of Cities (2403 citations) and Louis Wirth’ s (1938) Urbanism as a Way of Life (2433 citations).

What accounts for the book’ s academic traction and the ensuing debate it generated? First and foremost, Rise was the first work that really synthesized the emerging construct of “creativity’, coursing through psychology, economic history and regional science in the kind of straightforward language that practitioners as well as academic could understand. It draws off earlier work by Jacobs (1961) and especially by Andersson (1985) on the role of creativity and of the intersection of people’ s creative capacities and place to situate creativity in the context of regional development. Rise also successfully integrated two divergent streams of thinking in urban economics: one which held industry and university location paramount to growth, and a second, more recent stream which focused on the autonomous decisions of human capital or skilled labor. By adopting place as the organizing unit of economic growth, replacing the corporation which played that role in the industrial age, its 3Ts model of economic development attempted to unify the chicken-and-egg question of whether jobs or people lead economic development.

The Creative Class, Post-Industrialism and the Happiness of Nations

Our research examines the role of post-industrial structures and values on happiness across the nations of the world. We argue that these structures and values shape happiness in ways that go beyond the previously examined effects of income. Drawing from previous theory and research, we measured post-industrial structures in terms of higher level education and the share of the workforce engaged in knowledge-based/ creative work. Post-industrial values were measured in terms of acceptance of racial and ethnic minorities and of gays and lesbians.

Our measure of happiness is derived from a large-scale global survey of life satisfaction conducted by the Gallup Organization. We controlled for income in our analyses and divided our sample into high- and low-income countries to explore whether income has different effects on countries at different stages of economic development. Our results indicate that post-industrial structures and values have a stronger effect on happiness in higher-income countries, where the standard of living has surpassed a certain level. Income, on the other hand, has a stronger impact on happiness in low-income countries. Thus, we propose that when income rises beyond a certain level, a new system of post-industrial values centered on education, creativity, and openness become better predictors of happiness than income.

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