Amidst ongoing discussion over Richard Florida’s books, The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class (the first apparently beloved by NSW Minister Andrew Refshauge), I just stumbled across an unusual review of Florida’s first book by Harvard professor Ed Glaeser. The review is not only incredibly complimentary, it also tackles the core question in Florida’s research better than Florida himself:
The source of Floridaâ€™s policy prescriptions seems to be his attempt to argue that there is a difference between his â€œcreative capitalâ€ view and the mainstream urban view that human capital generates growth. As mentioned above, I have always argued that skilled cities grow because â€œthe presence of skills in the metropolitan area may increase new idea production and the growth rate of city-specific productivity levels,â€ but if Florida wants to argue that there is an effective of bohemian, creative types, over and above the effect of human capital, then presumably that should show up in the data.
Glaeser then presents a series of regressions (I told you it was an unusual book review) showing that the main factor driving city growth is the fraction of adults with a college degree, and that beyond this, the fraction of gay couples and the bohemian index have minimal explanatory power. He then comes to the conclusion that:
I would be awfully suspicious of suggesting to mayors that the right way to fuel economic development is to attract a larger gay population. There are many good reasons to be tolerant, without spinning an unfounded story about how Bohemianism helps urban development.
Instead, he argues that cities should focus on the basics: "low taxes, sprawl and safety".
(An aside: A couple of years ago, Justin Wolfers and I argued that the presence of gay couples in cities is a good metric of city quality. I still think this is fundamentally right. What I don’t believe is that there is a causal connection – that cities grow substantially faster because they have a higher fraction of gay couples.)