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Class-Divided Cities
April 10, 2013 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Beginning with New York and wending its way through to Detroit, The Atlantic Cities has just completed a series of posts exploring geographic class divisions in a dozen cities (actually metro areas) in the U.S., with help from American Community Survey data.

Geographic subdivisions are coded based on pluralities of "creative class," "service class," or "working class" employment. (Or, as in much of central Detroit, the lack of all three.)

The others:
posted by psoas (53 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh, the New York thing for "Top 10 Service Class Locations in New York Metro" tops off with Sheepshead Bay/Manhattan Beach, which is weird because the rest of the NYC neighborhoods on there -- except for North Riverdale and depending on what they're counting as "Bedford/Clinton Hill" exactly -- are pretty shitty places to live. Sheepshead has some not-great areas in it, but it isn't anything close to East New York or Canarsie.
posted by griphus at 8:12 AM on April 10, 2013


Druid Hills has the highest concentration of "creative classes" in Atlanta proper? Oh man, there are a lot of individual neighborhoods that would better fit that, but then I guess the point of this to generalize everyone and every neighborhood.

(Cabbagetown represent!)
posted by Kitteh at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, this is the first time I have ever seen Bensonhurst, where I grew up and live, explicitly mentioned in one of these things.
posted by griphus at 8:16 AM on April 10, 2013


I'll see your data and raise you an anecdote, American Community Survey!
posted by enn at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Purple and blue color map, come on man help a colorblind brother out.
posted by dudemanlives at 8:18 AM on April 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, Boston is helping you by not having any blue on it. It's all professors and Target employees, apparently.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:23 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


My neighborhood is service class, which doesn't surprise me too much....but let's see what happens in five years.
posted by rtha at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2013


The DC map is pretty on-point from my experience. Check out how the purple is sweeping northward from Georgia Avenue and H St. The march of the baby carriages and bagel shops.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:25 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish they'd do one of these for St. Louis.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind creative class doesn't mean you do anything primarily creative. It really just means white collar but in a more obnoxiously self-congratulatory branding kind of way.
posted by srboisvert at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


Greater Washington D.C. is one of a small number of metros whose dominant class is the creative class.

I submit this as evidence that the notion of the creative class is so misleading and/or overly broad as to be useless.

On preview,

Keep in mind creative class doesn't mean you do anything primarily creative. It really just means white collar but in a more obnoxiously self-congratulatory branding kind of way.

This.
posted by clavicle at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Creativity doesn't always mean making art. It means analyzing problems, making decisions, and having control and authority over you work, too. And anyone who gets to do that should be grateful.
posted by Halogenhat at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It really just means white collar but in a more obnoxiously self-congratulatory branding kind of way.

I prefer to think of it as "not as soul-crushing" personally (though I would never call myself part of the 'creative class' because it does just have a grossness about it that I can't quite put my finger on).
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:38 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Because I'm not creative enough.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:38 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So "creative class" is the liberal version of "job creators" then? Sounds right.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:38 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is how they are using the term "creative class":
The creative class includes people who work in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture, media, and entertainment, law, and healthcare professions.
So, it certainly includes people who do things which are creative. This is an observation they made about it, with regards to Chicago:
Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson notes the continuity and overlap between these creative class clusters and his own map of Chicago's "bohemian index" and internet use in his book, Great American City. Pointing to the strong creative class clusters in Hyde Park, the Loop, and North Side, he notes in an email to me that "what is interesting is that bohemians (actors, dancers, writers, etc.) are not necessarily high income. The creative class high earners like to be near the bohemians but perhaps not equal feelings the reverse way as reflected in the ongoing debate over gentrification." He also notes the difference between the creative class concentrations in the Loop and Lincoln Park, which are more business professional, and Hyde Park, which is more academic as it surrounds the University of Chicago.
So, it's not just about income - it's just work that's distinguished from service or manufacturing.
posted by MythMaker at 8:48 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Detroit map makes literally no sense to me.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2013


So "creative class" is the liberal version of "job creators" then?

No, it's a way of saying "white collar" or "desk job" without actually saying it.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:50 AM on April 10, 2013


I prefer to think of it as "not as soul-crushing" personally (though I would never call myself part of the 'creative class'

If it includes lawyers, it fails the "not soul-crushing" test.
posted by ambrosia at 8:53 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I meant that creative class:white collar worker::job creator:plutocrat, but I was being obnoxious and vague, so I'm sorry.

Thanks for the very interesting link, psoas.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:53 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The statistical work at least for New York Metro (and others, I assume) is terrible -- the "Top 10 Creative Class Locations in New York Metro" are all urban areas, all with less than 90% "creative class" employment. There are scores of suburban census tracts where "creative" class employment runs within a hair of 100%. My guess is that stay at home moms (the rule in "creative" suburbs and the exception in "creative" city neighborhoods) are included in the denominator and are regarded as not-creatively-employed in the numerator regardless of their education or professional qualifications. This makes zero sense as a proposition for understanding social class residential patterns.
posted by MattD at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Creative class people spend their work day wrestling with Outlook, Word, and Excel. If you are more creative than that you probably live in a working class neighborhood. I'm not complaining though because they were kind to my neighborhood.
posted by bukvich at 8:59 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Detroit map makes literally no sense to me.

The map of the Detroit metro area is useless at the size presented in the article.
posted by marxchivist at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2013


it's just work that's distinguished from service or manufacturing.

It also omits public sector, retail and transportation.

I have no fondness for Richard Florida, but I do think the attention on occupational patterns vis-a-vis urban land use dynamics is important.

The creative class high earners like to be near the bohemians but perhaps not equal feelings the reverse way

This. The guilty party not mentioned in this dynamic is 'place entrepreneurs' (re: city governments) who court bohemians until they achieve the desired environment for increasing rent.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:03 AM on April 10, 2013


Interesting stuff, but two qualms:

1) They really should be using median income. I mean, I'd guess I technically qualify as "creative class," much as I dislike the term, but I don't make anywhere near $87,000 (I was looking at New York, where I live), and neither do most people I know. My guess is that the creative class average income is vastly inflated by high-flying bankers and management consultant types, who are making high six figures, but that the median is probably somewhere in the $50,000-$70,000 range.

The same is probably true of other workers, especially the service class. I don't think the average cashier at a food-service place is making $35,000 per year. But the managers are probably making around $40,000-$50,000, dragging up the average. The median, I bet, is well below $30,000.

2) This is kind of a minor thing, but how do they qualify civil servants? I'd think they'd be working class, but the tract where I grew up on Staten Island - where, like, everyone works for the city - is supposedly 13% working class. Sorry, but that doesn't pass the smell test. Either they are mislabeling certain occupations, or the civil-service breadwinners are drowned out by family members who work in retail.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:04 AM on April 10, 2013


Well, Boston is helping you by not having any blue on it. It's all professors and Target employees, apparently.

I live in Boston and this is nearly true. I'm just not sure where the nearest Target is. I should find a professor to help me out with that.

(Though seriously, Boston is a weird mix of super elite academic/high tech jobs and then retail and tourism jobs. "Working class" as in manufacturing really only exists in Southie and not nearly in the way that it used to. Most of that sector got pushed out into the suburban Lowell/Worcester/Pawtucket areas.)
posted by sonika at 9:07 AM on April 10, 2013


I am a professor who lives in Watertown one mile from a Target, so that was an example of the truth hurting.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is still the best takedown of Creative Class theory around (PDF):

"Skeptical of big government solutions, Florida instead advocates a form of creative
trickle-down, with the lumpen classes of noncreatives eventually learning what the
overclass has already figured out, that ‘there is no corporation or other large institution
that will take care of us — that we are truly on our own’ (2002: 115). This is familiar
neoliberal snake-oil, of course — insecurity as the new freedom."
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:10 AM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Mostly what I mean about Detroit is that the creative areas are basically the moneyed suburbs. Maybe they have the jobs, but noone would understand these as progressive or tolerant areas.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:10 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


rtha: My neighborhood is service class, which doesn't surprise me too much....but let's see what happens in five years.

Same here. (And I don't live in your neighborhood any more.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:12 AM on April 10, 2013


So upper class is being silently folded into "creative class" now? (Looking at the SF article)

It also seems weird to draw a line between Menlo Park and Palo Alto, especially if they aren't going to write a separate article about San Jose.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:12 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the New York link, because they are interesting in of themselves (at least to me):

Toronto

Vancouver

and an extra, not linked in the article:

Montreal
posted by bonehead at 9:12 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


ok there's a better Detroit metro area map farther down you can enlarge
posted by marxchivist at 9:14 AM on April 10, 2013


"The Detroit map makes literally no sense to me."

The Detroit map would make a lot more sense if Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor/UM) was included. You'd see an interesting continuation of that SW/NE purple streak.
posted by klarck at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2013


So upper class is being silently folded into "creative class" now?

It looks that way to me. More useful might have been to use the BBC's categorization of seven classes:
Elite - the most privileged group in the UK, distinct from the other six classes through its wealth. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals

Established middle class - the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals. The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital

Technical middle class - a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

New affluent workers - a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital

Traditional working class - scores low on all forms of capital, but is not completely deprived. Its members have reasonably high house values, explained by this group having the oldest average age at 66

Emergent service workers - a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital

Precariat, or precarious proletariat - the poorest, most deprived class, scoring low for social and cultural capital
posted by bonehead at 9:20 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Technical middle class - a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

This is a really good description to capture a city like Sunnyvale, as compared with a Palo Alto.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:23 AM on April 10, 2013


Emergent service workers - a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital

Who is this describing? Party promoters and dealers?
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on April 10, 2013


People with "social media" in their job titles.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:35 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh! Yeah, I keep forgetting social media jobs are like $15K/year.
posted by griphus at 9:35 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

Oh man. At least I'm distinguished by something.

Also suck it West Village,East Village, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, have fun being several points less creative than us.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who is this describing? Party promoters and dealers?

My guess is aspiring writers/filmmakers/etc who work in retail and supplement their income by writing product reviews for some website. Or something.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2013


New Orleans third least bohemian?
posted by zangpo at 9:41 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the top ten service industry tracts in NY is actually the campus of CW Post.
posted by JPD at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2013


Once you start thinking like a property developer it all makes sense:

Creative class: people who buy condos or renovated spaces of various sorts and pay price premiums.

Working class: people whose workplaces and homes are bought out and renovated. working class = white, since historical racial demography determines the prices you can offer on renovated spaces, "working class" areas are desirable to redevelop.

service class: all the rest of the people creatives won't pay a price premium to live near.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "The march of the baby carriages and bagel shops."

Come on now, let's not be hyperbolic. The strollers might be encroaching on the city, but there are no bagel shops worth mentioning in DC.
posted by schmod at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Miami (featuring a majority farming-and-forestry neighborhood!)
I don't know anyone who thinks of Belle Glade as neighborhood of Miami.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2013


Into what category would you put "people who work in theater but still need day jobs"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2013


I live in a blue neighborhood but I think I'm probably counted as a purple person. How many hipster points do I win? Is it all of them? I hope it's all of them.
posted by phunniemee at 10:34 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Phunniemee, beware of the purple people eater.
posted by jonmc at 10:47 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Geographic subdivisions are coded based on pluralities of "creative class," "service class," or "working class" employment.

Not to mention pierced, tattooed and virgin skins.
posted by y2karl at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah, DC may be the opposite of creative
posted by destro at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2013


"Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm."

--JFK
posted by zombieflanders at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those of you annoyed by having to zoom about in a tiny little box, here are big versions of their zoomable maps:

NYC
San Francisco
Detroit
Los Angeles
Chicago
DC
Atlanta
miami
dallas
Houston
Philidelphia
Boston


Well, I know what I'm going to be doing for the next several hours. Leaving aside a few quibbles with thier class definitions, these are pretty amazing. Fantastic stuff.

I can't say I've encountered any major surprises yet in the cities I know well, but the regions of sharp contrast are pretty astonishing. I expected to see those sort of transitions in Chicago, but the radical transitions in other cities without obvious geographical divides are often much more dramatic than the qualitative experience of walking through those neighbourhoods.

On a personal level, it's interesting to note that every place I've lived as an adult (and most of the places I enjoy spending time) have exactly the same properties on these maps: a red patch located in a region where there is a massive discontinuity between adjacent zones. The entirely selfish conclusion is that I can use these maps to find new places to live and visit. (A somewhat less selfish reading suggests that I am a gentrifying agent, which is almost certainly true.)
posted by eotvos at 7:52 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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