'Creative class' debunked?

November 28, 2007
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The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting op-ed piece yesterday by a researcher who claimed cities are putting their eggs in the wrong basket by trying to attract young single professionals with a “brew-latte-and-they-will-come-approach.”

Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow at Chapman University, said job growth is stronger in cities like Charlotte, N.C., and Houston because they’re attracting young, educated families. These people are twice as likely to climb into the top 20 percent of income earners and their incomes are rising much faster than the national average, Kotkin argued. Thus, they are better able to build local economies.

“The evidence … suggests that the obsession with luring young singles to cities is misplaced,” Kotkin said.

He went on to say that families are more interested in plenty of economic opportunities, affordable housing and family-friendly environments that allow parents to spend more time with their children.

Cities that thrive will find ways to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs, Kotkin maintained. Rather than emphasizing bars, restaurants and clubs, he said, that means building social fabric by encouraging schools, churches and civic organizations, and making sure there are plenty of good parks.

Do you agree?

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  • While I agree that it is important to attract young families, the demographic trends are demonstrating that there are less young people getting married. Thus, to ignore young professional singles and focusing more on families means less people to target in the future. Young professionals are waiting longer and longer to get married. Divorce rate is still around 50%, and statistically, the traditional 'nuclear family' is less than a quarter of the total US population. Any city looking only at young families will be looking for small growth.
  • The entire premise of this report seems to be based on some sort of pro marriage agenda by the author. What the author fails to connect to the story is that before there are families there must be bars, restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses attracting singles to each other for their inevitable coupling and creation of families.

    Both cities mentioned in the piece, Charlotte and Houston, have the amenities single creatives and married young families are looking for. It is important for cities to not just focus on either/or strategies but attempt to be attractive for both singles and young married couples.
  • The first two comments presumed that the author was giving an either/or argument. I didn't read that at all. What I read was, ...the obsession with luring creative singles to cities is misplaced.

    The writer wasn't suggesting that cities shouldn't attract young singles, only they shouldn't place so much emphasis on it. Cities should work towards creating a balance between attracting creative singles AND attracting educated families. To that point, I agree.
  • Who funded this study? Focus on the Family or the Christian Coalition?
  • Even if they did, so what? Left-leaning groups fund research efforts, too.
  • It feels to me that the use of the creative class moniker is misplaced in this context. Having read The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, I believe label to refer to those that make their living on creative capital. I don't believe that it denotes specifically singles or couples.

    Second, something in this study feels skewed or at the least off.

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