Who’s Your City

If Thomas Friedman is best known for convincing us that the world is flat, then Richard Florida may be best known for telling us that it is spiky at the same time.  In Who’s Your City, an approachable academic analysis of our choice of place, Florida shows how the creative economy is making where to live the most important decision of your life, according to the subtitle.  The book builds upon his idea of the Creative Class and a creative economy where talented and productive people cluster together, as shown in Florida’s map.

In Florida’s conception of a spiky world, certain locations generate innovations.  You can see the spires rising from the mega-cities.  But where there are peaks, there are also valleys, hence, Florida’s admission that economic progress requires that the peaks grow stronger, which exacerbates economic and social disparity.  This idea takes on new meaning during this recession, or The Great Reset, as Florida calls it in a recent book.  So I thought it would be interesting to compare the map above to a map of unemployment rates to see how the creative class has fared. Based on this interactive map at Slate, those same cities where jobs were gained from January 2006 to 2008 were also the places where the numbers of jobs lost were the largest from January 2009 to 2010.  Patchwork Nation, a reporting project of the Jefferson Institute that aims to explore what is happening in the United States by examining different kinds of communities over time, also has some colorful maps on the subject, and a book that might make an interesting companion piece to Florida’s claims.

However, Florida’s book is not all seriousness and gloom, as in later chapters he explains how cities have personalities too and that shiny happy places do exist.  Of course, sometimes they come with a high price tag in the form of rent.  He reasons that it’s the price we pay for the clustering force that brings together people and creative skills and that drives economic growth, an interesting and encouraging thought in these times.

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