Mythbusting the (Anti-)Creative Class Argument

October 27, 2012

Most of us involved in entrepreneurship in the arts have read a lot about the Creative Economy. For some people it is a challenging moniker. For others it’s a concept that represents a beacon of hope. But what I often worry gets lost in the (heated) discussion is whether Creatives are more resilient in the face of 21st century challenges. Richard Florida’s most recent article in The Atlantic Cities provides some powerful evidence that this is in fact true.

First let me just say that probably no one is more connected to the broadest ends of our field than Richard Florida. His research has been both groundbreaking and controversial. I have myself engaged in some robust debate with colleagues about the efficacy of his methods. But sometimes numbers just don’t lie.

His new report — of which you can find a summary here and a full working paper version here — compares the unemployment rates for Creatives versus non-Creative Class workers. It shows that, from 2006 through 2011, the unemployment rate for Creatives increased by just 2.2 percentage points. This is in comparison to a 6.5 point increase for blue collar workers and 5 points for those in routine service jobs. The total unemployment rate for Creatives stands at just 4.1%. Yes, you read that correctly.

More importantly, we now not only have data showing clearly that “having a creative class job dramatically reduced a person’s chance of being unemployed over the course of the crisis” but also that “the biggest benefit for creative class workers came in regions with lower shares of creative class jobs.” This latter point indicates that smaller communities, where sometimes we assume Creatives are just bit players, might actually be the key to growing the economy out of it’s (seemingly) never-ending slump.

What’s the moral here? Maybe it’s this simple: math trumps myth.

Jonathan Kuuskoski is the Director of Entrepreneurship and Community Programs at the University of Missouri School of Music. He is also a pianist, teacher, arts entrepreneur, and member of the Arts Enterprise Executive Board. You can find him on Twitter: @jkuuskoski

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