An Empirical Assessment of Richard Florida's Creative Class Theory in the United States from 2001-2020

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Virginia Tech

Richard Florida's Creative Class Theory made a significant mark on economic geography. Upon initial publication in 2002, reviewers lacked sufficient data to test this theory in the contemporary economy. However, 20 years have elapsed. Statistical analysis of an operationalized creative class theory in relationship to growth in real per capita GDP does not show a statistically-significant, positive relationship. In fact, depending on the variable, most analysis shows either no statistically- significant relationship or a statistically-significant and negative correlation. Instead, in keeping with endogenous growth theory and the arguments of Glaeser, presence of non-manufacturing high-technology economic activity, overall levels of higher education, and immigration bear a substantial, positive, and statistically-significant relationship to growth in real per capita GDP. While Florida's theories consider these variables, Creative Class Theory depicts them as part of a broader construct with significant cultural components. The present analysis does not find evidence to support this theory in all of its details. However, the broader construct of "talent, technology, and tolerance" contributing to economic development remains valid. However, its components vary significantly from Florida's model. Findings suggest policy focus on generating creativity through culture may create less benefit than policies focused on increasing education supply, attracting and retaining educated workers, attracting and growing technology firms, and encouraging immigration. Additional research is needed to identify specific policies.

Economic development, Creative Class, Richard Florida, human capital