Thursday, April 11, 2013

America’s Most Creative Cities and States

Many of the most promising careers involve a high degree of creativity. This is happening because in today’s economy, much routine work can easily be handed off to computers, robots, and offshore workers. A decade ago, it was mostly low-skill jobs that got lost this way, but computers have  become smart enough to make inroads into middle-skill jobs. For example, some of the research work of paralegals is being done faster and more cheaply by computer programs.

However, computers so far have demonstrated little ability to do truly creative work. To be sure, we have all seen haikus written by computers and similar machine output that seems creative. But an algorithm defines how such tasks will be accomplished, so the creative part of the process happens when the systems analyst or computer scientist devises the algorithm. As a result, the creative worker has some security from the threat of being replaced by a computer.

Offshoring is also less of a threat for a creative worker, because the United States still is home to many hotbeds of creative industries. They are geographically clustered, just as the energy-extraction industry is clustered in certain oil patches and coal belts. You can understand that petroleum extraction and coal mining need to be located where the resources are to be found in the ground, but why should creative work need to cluster? The urban theorist Richard Florida says that creative workers are most productive when they can collaborate, bouncing ideas off one another. And the communities where they tend to cluster for collaborative work tend to have research universities, a good communications infrastructure, nearby investors, a lively cultural scene, and tolerant attitudes. The United States has many communities that offer all the ingredients of this creativity-fostering recipe.

I decided to identify these highly creative geographical areas, not by looking for the presence of these ingredients, but rather by finding the presence of creative workers. To do so, I combined data from the O*NET database, which describes the characteristics of occupations, and employment figures from BLS’s newly-released Occupational Employment Statistics survey, which has estimates for May 2012.

Here’s the procedure I used.
  •  The O*NET rates occupations on the level of “Thinking Creatively” that they require. For each occupation, I multiplied this rating by the number of workers in that occupation within each metropolitan area in the United States.
  • Then I divided this product by the number of workers in all occupations in the same metro area.
  • Finally, I sorted the metro areas by this “creativity quotient” and ordered them from highest (San Jose-Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, CA: 3.38) to lowest (Ithaca, NY: 1.85).

As you might expect, these jobs tend to be concentrated in the Silicon Valley and in similar hotbeds of high-tech industries. Here are the top 20 metro areas where creative workers are clustered, listed with their creativity quotients:

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: 3.38
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 3.31
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH: 3.21
Huntsville, AL: 3.21
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA: 3.20
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO: 3.19
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX: 3.18
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT: 3.18
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: 3.17
Raleigh-Cary, NC: 3.15
Baltimore-Towson, MD: 3.15
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA: 3.14
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: 3.14
Boulder, CO: 3.13
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA: 3.13
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX: 3.13
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY: 3.11
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC: 3.11
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: 3.11
St. Louis, MO-IL: 3.09

Here is a map that my friend Jeffrey Doshna of Temple University produced, using the data about metropolitan areas that I furnished:

I also used the same procedure to identify the states where creative work is clustered. On the map below, the darker the color of the state, the more creative work is concentrated there. (I couldn't find a colorable map with Alaska and Hawaii, but they would be among the very pale states.)

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