A City Divided

There has been some interesting work recently published by Richard Florida, among others, on the geography of class within cities in the U.S. as part of a report for the Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Richard Florida is a prominent urban theorist who coined the term ‘the creative class’ to describe knowledge workers who, he argues, drive urban economics. The report attempts to better understand the relationship between class and geography in modern cities in the U.S. using data from the 2010 census.

The geography of class in New York City. Source: The Divided City, p. 12
The geography of class in New York City. Source: The Divided City, p. 12

The analysis charts the residential locations of the major working classes in 12 large U.S. metro areas. The report separates the workers into 3 classes; the knowledge based ‘creative class’ who make up about a third of the U.S. workforce (which includes work in advertising, business, education, the arts, etc.); the ‘service class,’ which makes up the largest and fastest growing sector of the economy (retail, food service, clerical jobs etc.); and the dwindling blue-collar working class (manufacturing, construction, industry, transportation, etc.).

The geography of class in Boston. Source: The Divided City, p. 32
The geography of class in Boston. Source: The Divided City, p. 32

The study used GIS to map the residential location of the 3 classes, and found clear patterns of class division across each of the cities studies. The creative class occupy the most economically functional and desirable locations, often clustered in and around the urban core. The location of the other 2 classes are ‘structures and shaped by the locational prerogatives of the creative class.’ The service class often surround the creative class, concentrated in areas of disadvantage, or are pushed to suburban fringes. The study also found that there are ‘strikingly few’ working class concentrations left in major cities in the U.S.

The geography of class in Washington D.C. Metro. Source: The Divided City p. 24
The geography of class in Washington D.C. Metro. Source: The Divided City p. 24

The study concludes by identifying key locational factors that shape the class divided city, each of which ‘turns on the locational imperatives of the creative class.’ The key factors include:

  • Urban centres where the affluent creative class concentrate in and around the central business district
  • Transit hubs where the creative class cluster due to ease of transport
  • Knowledge institutions where the creative class cluster around universities and knowledge based institutions
  • Natural Amenities where the creative class cluster, especially waterfront locations.

The data has been expanded further by ESRI, the geospatial company that are home to ArcGIS.  The data maps these class divides across all of America’s 70,000-plus Census tracts, and allows for the observation and comparison of the dominant locations of the three major classes, median income levels, and the location of the highly educated across many U.S. metropolitan areas. These interactive maps can be found here.

The Geography of Class, Education, and Income in the United States
The Geography of Class, Education, and Income in the United States. Source: ArcGIS

Reference

Florida, R., Matheson, Z., Alder, P. and Brydges, T. (2014) The Divided City: And the shape of the new metropolis. Martin Prosperity Institute (pdf)

For more see:

CityLab

The Washington Post

NextCity.org

 

Authored by Kevin Lougheed, Teaching Fellow, TCD Geography

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