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Flight of the Creative Class
June 1, 2005 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Rise of the Creative Class followed by the Flight of the Creative Class. Following up on The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Florida argues that if America continues to make it harder for some of the world's most talented students and workers to come here, they'll go to other countries eager to tap into their creative capabilities—as will American citizens fed up with what they view as an increasingly repressive environment. He argues that the loss of even a few geniuses can have tremendous impact, adding that the "overblown" economic threat posed by large nations such as China and India obscures all the little blows inflicted upon the U.S. by Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand and other countries with more open political climates. Florida lays his case out well and devotes a significant portion of this polemical analysis to defending his earlier book's argument regarding "technology, talent, and tolerance" (i.e. that together, they generate economic clout, so the U.S. should be more progressive on gay rights and government spending). He does so because that book contains what he sees as the way out of the dilemma—a new American society that can "tap the full creative capabilities of every human being." Even when he drills down to less panoramic vistas, however, Florida remains an astute observer of what makes economic communities tick, and he's sure to generate just as much public debate on this new twist on brain drain.
posted by mk1gti (107 comments total)

 
If I may add: Florida made a presentation on just this subject at last year's PopTech. Audio available here for your listening pleasure.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:08 AM on June 1, 2005


boring and obvious, but makes sense.
posted by muppetboy at 10:09 AM on June 1, 2005


Or, rather, here.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:11 AM on June 1, 2005


Umm... This paragraph is just copied from the "Editorial Reviews" section on the Amazon page.
posted by obvious at 10:12 AM on June 1, 2005


I think that even if these creative get sick of America, few of them will actually bother to leave. The US is still a nice place to live even if you are a liberal. Will that be the case in 20 years? Who knows. But so far all these republican idiots have done is start one war and lower taxes (which the "creative class" benefits from even if they don't agree with it).

In fact, most of what bush is doing fucks over the poor, not the rich. As long as they can still get weed, and don't need gay domestic partnership benefits (which they can currently get in some states), I don't think these people really have any reason to leave the US.

It's perfectly possible to "hate america" while being here and reaping the economic rewards of Bush's poor-bashing economic system.
posted by delmoi at 10:18 AM on June 1, 2005


Topical double post.
posted by Gyan at 10:28 AM on June 1, 2005


I believe Florida contends part of the problem is that the U.S. is no longer quite so welcoming to immigrants. What ends up happening is they are get their education here and then go back home to make use of what they've learned. I don't see this as much of a negative, though this means that the pool of available talent (keeping in mind the creative class includes people involved in the physical sciences) is no longer exclusively an American entity.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:35 AM on June 1, 2005


ericb had a great answer in AxMe about the Creative Class.
posted by mlis at 10:35 AM on June 1, 2005


Let's hope this creative genius gets sick of the increasingly repressive Metafilter and heads to more open climate of Fark soon.
posted by fire&wings at 10:40 AM on June 1, 2005


Its interesting information but, as an FPP, could have used alot more support. Say, by linking to sites in Canada, Scandanavia and New Zealand that demonstrate their less oppressive political climate.

Having witnessed a good portion of the end stages of the brain drain in apartheid South Africa, I can attest to its economic, cultural and emotional impact on society. If the US is starting to bleed our brains to other nations then we had better start looking for the suture kit to stop the bleeding or we'll begin to wither (though it is arguable that we're already half-wilted now).
posted by fenriq at 10:45 AM on June 1, 2005


I'd like to tap some creative class right about now. If you catch my meaning.
posted by eatitlive at 10:49 AM on June 1, 2005


I don't really thing that the modern US can be equated with apartheid South Africa. Although the southern US before the civil rights movement certanly could be... hmm...
posted by delmoi at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2005


The creative class can kiss my ass.

I'm a poet! Yay!
posted by jonmc at 11:18 AM on June 1, 2005


The number of legal permanent residents has steadily risen in the US since the category was created, that includes the post 200 election and post 9/11 periods.

The annual number of non-immigrant visa admissions while there was about a 10% dip after 9/11, has actually steadily risen since that time and has returned to pre-9/11 numbers.

Temporary worker limits (reset last during the Clinton administration) were reached and special legislation implemented to surpass the limits (as is required) in each of the last 4 years. It is expected that similar legislation will be enacted at the new fiscal year. This is a separate issue from Bush's guest worker proposals. (Source)

The birth rate in the US is at an all time low, however US population grows at about 2.5 million people each year, one of the highest growth rates in the industrialized world (Britain's growth rate is approximately one quarter of the US). Apparently we have a real problem with brain drain in this country.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM on June 1, 2005


(changed link to Florida's site, removed the amazon stuff)
posted by mathowie at 11:30 AM on June 1, 2005


Well, since no one has actually commented on the notion behind the book, why is this so far fetched? Seriously, let's say that over the next decade the fundamentalist agenda comes to fruition. School curriculums are based in Christian dogma. Taxes on the wealthy are a joke, but the AMT is crushing anyone making between 100K and 300K. The national debt has trebled. Scientific advances are stagnant due to "culture-of-life" litmus testing. Medical care is scarce but society is fatter and unhealthier than ever.

Let's also presume you are a professional with the capacity to choose where you work. Why wouldn't a rational person relocate?

If your neighborhood is for shit, you move. If your nation is for shit, same thing.
posted by docpops at 11:33 AM on June 1, 2005


but the AMT is crushing anyone making between 100K and 300K.

*tunes up worlds smallest violin*
posted by jonmc at 11:37 AM on June 1, 2005


(changed link to Florida's site, removed the amazon stuff)
posted by mathowie at 11:30 AM PST on June 1


WTF?

This is a shitty post that should be deleted. You delete posts all the time. Why go to the effort to "fix" this one? And in doing so, deleting the comments to "clean" it up? Not to mention that when you do fix it, it become a double post of another thread that Gyan points out above.

Do you just really approve of the content? Or are you just feeling chartiable to the author?

This is a shit post and should have been deleted. To the extent that the content has value, it has already been discussed a year ago.
posted by dios at 11:40 AM on June 1, 2005




"Seriously, let's say that over the next decade the fundamentalist agenda comes to fruition"

Seriously, money trumps Jesus any day of the week in America. If the money goes away, the fundamentalist agenda goes away. Never doubt the power of money.
posted by MikeMc at 11:49 AM on June 1, 2005


dios, take it to MeTa or let it go.

delmoi, I wasn't necessarily comparing the US brain drain to what I observed in South Africa, only that the loss of the smartest people (who also tended to be the wealthier people too) will tend to have a pretty noticable effect on the society from the three perspectives I noted. The US is nothing like apartheid South Africa.
posted by fenriq at 11:53 AM on June 1, 2005


Stem cell research is only one limited area in a vast field of bio-medical research. What about our administration's move to reopen nuclear testing, think of all the new creative class that will seek jobs developing our new and exciting weapons systems! What about oil company r&d, somebody's got to spend all those profits they are raking in! Hey, in the fifties we had the whole red menace thing and one uptight society, yet we still had some of the highest influxes of immigrants in our history!

Our history is long and filled with fluxuations between puritanism and purientism, yet somehow people, smart people even have continued to flock to our shores. The thing is in America, if either side gets too full of themselves, the voters remove them from office. Let the neo-cons step on enough toes, say by screwing with social security despite the AARP crowd being the fastest growing group in our country and you'll see it isn't time to start packing the Hummer for Yellow Knife just yet.

Flee if you must, we'd prefer you stay and fight the good fight. If you do leave though I'm sure we will find a replacement for you at your job site before you can clear exit customs.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:05 PM on June 1, 2005


*tunes up worlds smallest violin*

No one is asking for sympathy, jonmc. And since I don't know what your income is, I'll assume that a modest six figure income seems extravagant to you. To most people, given the current cost of housing, health care, etc. it's a decent living. The point, though, is that there is a vast swath of people who work their asses off whose income taxes have actually increased by between 5 and 15 percent in the last five years because of the AMT.
posted by docpops at 12:15 PM on June 1, 2005


The thing is in America, if either side gets too full of themselves, the voters remove them from office.

We have a winner!
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on June 1, 2005


What I am curious about is who on Meta considers themselves a member of the creative class and where in the country they currently live and to what part of the country would they consider locating short of leaving the country for better venues.
posted by mk1gti at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2005


And since I don't know what your income is, I'll assume that a modest six figure income seems extravagant to you.

I don't know what planet you live on, but I think it's exteremely good income to most people.

What I am curious about is who on Meta considers themselves a member of the creative class

Not a member. But you knew that.
posted by jonmc at 12:20 PM on June 1, 2005


And...once again, you missed the entire point.

No one said it isn't a good income. It's also very much a middle class income. It's also true that paying another 5k a year in income taxes for that person when someone earning 500K plus, a portion of which is in the form of dividends, actually sees more coming back to them, could wind up being a stimulus so seek a change.

But feel free to remain obtuse to the real issue.
posted by docpops at 12:26 PM on June 1, 2005


It's also very much a middle class income.

500k a year is middle class? It's in the top 10% of income, how the hell is that middle class? And you're calling me obtuse? Go cry into your Gucci hankie.
posted by jonmc at 12:30 PM on June 1, 2005


God, are you that stupid? Read the post. 100K = middle class.

500K +, with a modest or significant portion from dividends and income from investments taxed at a far lower rate than real wages, NOT middle class.

Let me know if that isn't clear enough.
posted by docpops at 12:33 PM on June 1, 2005


I dunno if this City Journal piece by Steven Malanga (about Florida's prior book) appears in the other thread, but it should appear here.

Also, "fixing" rather than killing this FPP (which is a thoughtless double post that takes up too much screen real estate) is a bad call. Caprice, thy name is Haughey.

On preview, you're being an asshole, docpops.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:35 PM on June 1, 2005


Uh, 100k is not middle class either. The average family earns around $36,000 per year. The median is a bit more, at $38,000. Just because you're a victim of the "everybody is like me" fallacy (everybody thinks they're middle class), John is a lot closer to the mean and median than u. Plus he's funnier.
posted by zpousman at 12:42 PM on June 1, 2005


Yeah, seriously, if you're making 100K, you're not middle class. It may make you feel better to say that you're middle class, but you're not. You're upper class.
posted by unreason at 12:45 PM on June 1, 2005


Six figures doesn't necessarily meant you can buy a great quality of life, even in less expensive parts of the U.S. (as compared to the Bay Area, DC, etc.) Why these folks keep bothering, however, is the larger question. Why does the big-ass SUV with the DVD player in it matter? Why can't they buy a cheaper house in the central city in Charlotte? The NY Times story I've linked bothers me in about eighty different ways. It gets me ticked off at the country's leadership and elites, at developers, at this not-oblivious but absolutely gutless couple, at all of us.
posted by raysmj at 12:47 PM on June 1, 2005


zpousman: that only tells part of the story. In certain parts of the country $36k a year can go pretty far. In other parts, you could be making $70k and still be just scraping by. Plus as people's income goes up they spend accordingly in my experience. But 100k is probably at the upper end of middle class, just about everywhere.

Actually, we should be saying "upper income," since class is connected to income, but not part and parcel of it. Most people would consider a plumber making $95K a year (and they do exist) working class, but upper income. Likewise, a professor making $25k a year has a low income, but because of the status of his profession, he'd still be considered middle or even upper class on certain levels.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on June 1, 2005


zpousman:

All good points. I would say, though, that many people depend on mortgage interest as their primary source of deductions, which is eliminated under the AMT. There are fewer and fewer places where housing is "cheap", and certainly not along the coasts where population is concentrated. I apologize if a nerve was exposed by implying that incomes as those I mentioned are not adequate. It's really about what is fair. No one who works hard for a sustainable income ought to see their burden increased in order to fund tax cuts for people whose financial well-being is based on earnings from investments.

According to statistics from the National Opinion Research Center, as reported by Baker, large numbers of American define themselves as "working class" or "middle class," including:

* 50% of those families who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 annually
* 38% of those families who earn between $40,000 and $60,000 annually
* 16.8% of those families who earn over $110,000 annually


FWIW, I'm not bothered by the notion of the extra taxes. I live well within my means and make more than I think is necessary. But one of the central tenets of arguments against the idea that someone would up and relocate seems to be that other countries are not as economically 'fair' or tax at a higher rate than we do. My intent was to succinctly make the point that more and more people are being exposed to the notion that there is little in the way of fairness about the current system. They are many of the same people with the means to relocate their services to other locales outside our borders.
posted by docpops at 12:55 PM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: The professor has a great deal of cultural capital. But he doesn't have a great deal in real income, and as such isn't middle class, at least according to how the term is usually operationalized. He or she could have a spouse making $40,000 or so, however, and live a middle-class lifestyle in many parts of the country, giving the then-greater ease of owning a home, tax breaks, etc. But owning a home is harder than ever in many parts of the country, unless you can, say, take out an interest-only loan or some such risky nonsense.
posted by raysmj at 12:59 PM on June 1, 2005


Most professors do a great deal better, by the way. And different types of professors will have varying degrees of cultural capital. Graduate school is not charm school, where everybody's sitting around learning about opera and table manners.
posted by raysmj at 1:02 PM on June 1, 2005


No one who works hard for a sustainable income ought to see their burden increased in order to fund tax cuts for people whose financial well-being is based on earnings from investments.

Thrift is not virtuous. Economies don't need investment. Capital markets needn't be efficient.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:04 PM on June 1, 2005


docpops, what those figures primarily show is that in America everyone wants to be middle class, including the lower class and the upper class.

On preview, raysmj, is that really true? Assistant profs don't do that much better. And adjuncts...
posted by kenko at 1:07 PM on June 1, 2005


docpops: before you get the wrong idea, I'm no class warrior. I have no problem with doctors and lawyers being handsomely compensated for the difficult and important work they do.

American define themselves as "working class" or "middle class," including:

* 50% of those families who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 annually


This comment of mine in another thread, attempts to address this.

Why can't they buy a cheaper house in the central city in Charlotte?

Because of all the associated woes of urban life: crime, racial tension, poor city services, etc. This is especially prevalent among baby boomers and older gen-x'ers who remember the state of American cities in the 70's. Of course the ironic effect of the middle class abandoning inner cities is that these conditions get worse.
posted by jonmc at 1:07 PM on June 1, 2005


where did you get your numbers, zpousman? In 2003 dollars, the median family earns 43,527. California @ 48,979, New Jersey @ 55,221, New York @ 43,160, West Virginia @ 31,210. This according to the Census Bureau.

The 'third fifth' in 2001 earned a mean of $51,538. So if you define 'middle class' tightly around that, then around 40k-70k is 'middle class'. A decent case could be made for 100k being considered solidly middle class in certain areas of the country, though. In LA or SF, is a single wage earning family making 100k rich? With rents and mortgages for a 4 bedroom around 2700 in some areas, two cars a necessity due to lack of urban transport, insurance and medical costs being what they are, 'national average'-level schooling costing 500+/month per child, you tell me. Or wait, I can tell you. No. :)
posted by felix at 1:09 PM on June 1, 2005


kenko,

agreed. Furthermore, no one knows what the hell middle class is. Objective data do nothing to fill in the gray areas of people's own sense of economic security, dreams for future gains in economic stability, ability to weather downturns in the economy, etc. Defining who is middle class isn't relevant to a discussion on fair tax implementation and was never the point.

On preview, jonmc, I know. I would have jumped all over the same comments had they been someone else's.
posted by docpops at 1:11 PM on June 1, 2005


Furthermore, no one knows what the hell middle class is.

Middle income=not rich & not poor by the standards of one's community.

middle class=same thing vis a vis power, social esteem, and cultural capital.
posted by jonmc at 1:13 PM on June 1, 2005


From Florida:
Gays are the canaries of the creative economy.

Gays are the key to economic success? Wow, that Keynes guy was wrong.

Cities must attract the new "creative class" with hip neighborhoods, an arts scene and a gay-friendly atmosphere

How does a CITY become "gay friendly?"

Does it need to build more rest-stops or something? Build a Cher museum?

I don't point this out because I anti-gay or whatever I will be accused of, because that just isn't true. I actually don't have a problem with homosexuality or gay people and would support civil unions 100%; and I have made those beliefs known to my gay friends and cousin, so don't start calling me names.. But this sort of ACCEPT US DAMMIT sort of shrillness is off-putting. There isn't any real need to overstate the case and suggest that gays are the key to society's future.

This whole article smacks of a smart person trying to demand acceptance of his worldview by creating a framework that requires its acceptance.

Seems to me what this guy is really saying is, "The People of America need to quit being traditionalists or this country will become a craphole." I don't get why he couches this in to some pseudo-economic nonsense. It's clear his thesis is that unless we become his brand of progressive, then our country will die.

I'm not sure how one makes this view comport at all with the history of the United States. Seems like it has done just fine competing in the world. There is a basic equality of opportunity for all the citizens, and it is a open and free society and already supremely multicultural. And this is the reason that people have flocked here and continue to do so. He seems to be saying that the US needs to be more like France or Amsterdam to be successful, but we passed them long ago.

So I don't see why or any justification for his claims that trend is "suddenly" going to reverse unless we have gay marriage or whatever his confusing thesis is.

Wake me when immigration/emigration figures aren't exponentially one-sided.

By the way, I guess I am in the creative class by this Florida guy's own definition, so maybe I get the right to say he is full of shit.
posted by dios at 1:13 PM on June 1, 2005


How does a CITY become "gay friendly?"

Now this is an obtuse question.

By not passing discriminitory laws or persecuting gay citizens.

But the gay thing is actually a fairly minor part of the whole Creative Class shtick, which seems more like a marketing label than actual sociological research to me.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on June 1, 2005


jonmc: I'm guessing much of the available housing was torn down to make way for parking lots, expressways, etc., and now prices are inflated for yuppies who want to be near work and will pay anything to do it. Charlotte's a fairly young city.

An adjuct professor, meanwhile, is not what I was thinking about, but a full-time professor. And $25,000 is the very low end for an assistant professor's salary in most of the social sciences. (I've made considerably more under a one-year contract in a city with a very low cost of living.) In the humanities, it can often be a different story. You still have, however, profs in the hard sciences (and social sciences that can be more lucrative, such as economics and psychology), engineering, business, law and other professional schools to go. Here's a state-by-state comparison of asst. prof salaries in 2004.
posted by raysmj at 1:18 PM on June 1, 2005


As for the economics of it, there seems to be a good base in this country of all kinds of cities. Why is the alternative that people will leave the country?

One can move from Atlanta to Austin or Detroit to San Fransisco to get what they are looking for in a city. Want low taxes and cost of living and progessive environment? Try Austin or Portland. Want highbread and expensive radical progressive environment? Try San Fransisco. Want the ultimate in the Urban experience? Try New York. Etc. There are plenty of towns in this country for whatever a person wants. Why are we to assume that people will leave the country if they don't like the town they are living in?
posted by dios at 1:19 PM on June 1, 2005


Also, urban neighborhoods that are heavily populated by the "Creative Class," such as the West Village and Williamsburg here inNew York are also gentrified neighborhoods, which is something glossed over in this analysis.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on June 1, 2005


By not passing discriminatory laws or persecuting gay citizens.

But the gay thing is actually a fairly minor part of the whole Creative Class shtick, which seems more like a marketing label than actual sociological research to me.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM PST on June 1


I agree with this statement completely jonmc, and that is why I found it odd how it was marketed. As for the gay thing, other than marriage, one has a hard case to make that there are discriminatory laws or that gays are persecuted in any major city in this country. As it seems to be a single issue, I don't see why it takes such a prominent part of the marketing of this Creative Class schtick.
posted by dios at 1:21 PM on June 1, 2005


one has a hard case to make that there are discriminatory laws or that gays are persecuted in any major city in this country.

Come again?

It may not be systematic government persecution in many caese, dios, but there are definitely cities, and neighborhoods within cities where gay people will experience less hostility and violence than in others. A gay guy is less likely to get beat up for kissing his boyfreind in Chelsea than in say, Bensonhurst. (no disrespect to either neighborhood, I've enjoyed both of them.)
posted by jonmc at 1:25 PM on June 1, 2005


jonmc, I think you are suggesting that attitudes of people need to change. That may be true. But how does a CITY do that? Which is what my original question was. The CITY in the sense of the local government, etc. seems to be what this is driven for. That the city governments need to do X, Y, and Z to ensure the success.

How does a city dictate acceptance? The laws are already in place prohibiting discrimination.

So again, isn't he really saying that the people of America need to change?
posted by dios at 1:29 PM on June 1, 2005


I think you are suggesting that attitudes of people need to change. That may be true. But how does a CITY do that? Which is what my original question was.

If I had the exact answer to that question, I'd be booking a flight to Stockholm and polishing up my acceptance speech, dios. But the fact remains that certain areas are more gay-freindly than others, and it's worth looking into how that happens.

The laws are already in place prohibiting discrimination.

In some places, yes. In many others, no, and there's vocal contingents working to keep it that way.
posted by jonmc at 1:36 PM on June 1, 2005


Did our super gay-friendly attitudes of the 50's and 60's boost the tide of intellectuals to the US?

Folks, people have been flooding into the US since before 1776 regardless of our attitudes towards gays, stem cells, drinking, drugs, hell, they come in droves even in the times when we are decidedly anti-immigrant! What makes anyone think that suddenly we are going to stop having immigrants. Yeah, maybe we won't have as many liberal immigrants or we might lose a couple of stem-cell specialists (though I don't see them running for South Korea and their advanced labs working openly in that field), but I see little evidence to support that we are losing out on immigrants.

I have heard universities complain about "new" policies towards student visas. I have even heard them complain about the new fees involved in obtaining such visas. I also see them consistently raising tuition year after year. Perhaps this has something to do with brain drain more than our administration's attitudes towards gays and abortion or some $100 visa processing fee?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2005


Florida:
Gays are the canaries of the creative economy.

dios:
Gays are the key to economic success?


Errrr... Huh? Either you didn't bother to read the sentence you quoted, or you're just being deliberately silly. I could agree or disagree with the "Gays as canaries of a creative economy" statement. But to turn that into 'Gays are the key to economic success' is a bizarre exercise in straw-manning.
posted by verb at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2005


The laws are already in place prohibiting discrimination.

They are in Seattle and Los Angeles and Miami, but not in Birmingham or Mobile or Little Rock. Which is pretty much Florida's point.

Here's a guide to anti-discrimination policies and statues at various levels of U.S. government: federal, state, and municipal.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:59 PM on June 1, 2005


Gays are the key to economic success? Wow, that Keynes guy was wrong.

Uh, no. But there is a direct correlation between the number of gay people in a city and that city's economic success.

And jonmc - 'creative class' is a marketing term, but I ask you, how would you distinguish between people who create new things/ideas for a living and those who manipulate objects, or provide routine services.

It is true that a city cannot survive without janitors, policemen, fast food cashiers, bank tellers, etc.

But it is also true that a city will not thrive without artists, programmers, scientists, chefs, architects, engineers, etc. A janitor may be very creative in how he does his job, he didn't get hired for his creativity, he doesn't make any more money because of it, and his creativity doesn't add to the economy as much as his physical labor does.

While the less creative group might not have a lot of options with regard to relocating (moving costs money, international moves cost more), the latter group does.

Lastly, don't forget that the U.S. only had the opportunity to rise to its current level because the cultural capitals of the world got bombed to rubble twice in a 30 year span. Financial success follows cultural success, not the other way around. The U.S.'s number one export is still culture - in the form of movies, music, tv, and brand names. A lot of the people making that culture are realizing that equal or better opportunities exist elsewhere.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:07 PM on June 1, 2005


I haven't and don't have time to read every comment in this thread, but it seems to me like sentences like this one,

"There isn't any real need to overstate the case and suggest that gays are the key to society's future."

to me, imply that whoever wrote it doesn't really understand what Florida is talking about. As I understand it from watching the author speak at SxSW one time, he is saying:

- The most successful companies are the ones with the most creative employees with ideas that make money. Not many people will argue (I think) that running a successful company requires a degree of ingenuity and creativity from their employees.

- In order for people to reach their creative potential, they need to work in an atmosphere that accepts them, their lifestyles, their personalities and beliefs in a way that's not judgmental. Otherwise they have to hide parts of their life which will hinder their ability to reach their absolute creative potential.

- Florida has observed that in cities with a lot of art support, music, bohemian folks, and yes, gay folks there is also a higher concentration of successful hi-tech companies. Note that the gay factor is but one item in an unordered list, not the focus. Why? Because creative people are attracted to those cities first because they want to be themselves without hiding the fact that they may be gay, get high, are a musician or any other personal attributes that traditional business atmospheres find unacceptable. One would have to look over his data to figure out for yourself if he's logically arriving at his "successful businesses are linked to high cultural/diversity rating" theory.

You may think I'm crazy but I really like these ideas and feel like I'm living them out. I moved from the East coast to one of the West coasts open and accepting cities. I'm a web developer (they call it a technologist these days) I don't have to wear a suit (I can express myself via dress as I please without being judged and am not self conscious or resentful about it), and I don't have to hide any part of my lifestyle or anything else. As long as I can do my job correctly that's all that matters, I've got an open license to solve many problems in whatever creative way I can come up with, I make a fine living, It's great. Maybe I would get this same treatment in Pennsylvania where I grew up, but I do believe the chances are less.

In short, don't get hung up on the gay thing.
posted by chowder at 2:07 PM on June 1, 2005


He or she could have a spouse making $40,000 [with the other spouse making 25K in this example] or so, however, and live a middle-class lifestyle in many parts of the country, giving the then-greater ease of owning a home, tax breaks, etc.

In many parts of the country such a couple would need food stamps if they had children - nevermind owning a home.
posted by mlis at 2:32 PM on June 1, 2005


chowder, I see your point, but I wonder if the problem with this Florida guy is how he emphasies it. First, I wonder if he establishes causation. Do those bellwether people cause the city to be successful, or do they flock to cities that are successful on their own merits? Where is the link that they cause the cities to be successful?

You do make points about not excluding groups. I know I read this same argument when some colleges were talking about going co-ed: "If you want the best qualified individuals, then you can't exclude a group of people. By excluding a segment of society, you are reducing the available pool from which to draw talented people."

That makes perfect and rational economic sense. But that isn't really what this guy is saying. He is suggesting there are essential segments of society which are more important than others, and those groups are bellwethers. And unless these specifics groups are accommodated, then your society will fail. That sort of argument is hogwash.
posted by dios at 2:40 PM on June 1, 2005


chowder - well said!
posted by ericb at 2:41 PM on June 1, 2005


Metropolis Magazine has a recent article by Karrie Jacobs explaining why she doesn't love Florida which is interesting coming from a "creative" magazine. My favorite excerpt:

". . . but when you read how Florida defines this Creative Class, it's hard to distinguish them from our old friends from the 1980s, the yuppies."

That hurts - but I guess I'd rather belong to a Creative Class than be defined as a yuppie.
posted by quadog at 2:47 PM on June 1, 2005


There are many examples of city neighborhoods having witnessed gays and lesbians as being part of a transforming population, and, in some cases, "leading the charge." I point to Boston's South End (1980s - today), New York's Chelsea (1990s - today) and San Francisco's Castro and Mission neighborhoods (1960s - today) as examples. Gay men and lesbians often seek out neighborhoods where they feel comfortable. It is there that they invest time, energy and money in making homes and communities comfortable to them and to others.

A similar trend can be seen in gay resorts. Look at where they tend to be located - out at the stretches; at the "ends of the earth." Fire Island, Provincetown, Key West - to name a few. Those towns have always been accepting and tolerant. In each of these cases they were/are destinations welcoming of authors, artists, people gay and straight, living and tolerant of each other.
posted by ericb at 2:52 PM on June 1, 2005


em>How does a CITY become "gay friendly?" Does it need to build more rest-stops or something? Build a Cher museum?

dios - as a gay man, I take offense at your gross stereotyping. I choose to ignore you and consider you a "troll" in this thread (as I have often done so in other threads).
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on June 1, 2005


Ok ecrib. I apologize to you for stereotyping. But I hope that you come forth and make the same statement labeling the user as a troll when someone makes the next Christian/Southerner/Conservative offensive stereotype. Deal?
posted by dios at 2:57 PM on June 1, 2005




First, I wonder if he establishes causation. Do those bellwether people cause the city to be successful, or do they flock to cities that are successful on their own merits? Where is the link that they cause the cities to be successful?

That is one crux of Florida related arguments. All I can say is
One would have to look over his data to figure out for yourself if he's logically arriving at his "successful businesses are linked to high cultural/diversity rating" theory.

I haven't poured over all or any of his books, though I have spent some time reading articles on his web site. But I do believe that he would say these types of people flock to the cities on their own merits.

You may be interested in this page from his site where some economist guy from Harvard writes an academic style article that Florida is full of poococky and then Florida responds. The Harvard economist may very well address your questions, I don't remember. Scroll down a little bit.
posted by chowder at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2005


> Its interesting information but, as an FPP, could have used alot more
> support. Say, by linking to sites in Canada, Scandanavia and New Zealand
> that demonstrate their less oppressive political climate.

And show how tail-wagging eager they are to provide citizenship and working papers to a mob of expat American towel designers aiming to put the native indigenous towel designers of Canada, Scandinavia and NZ out of work.
posted by jfuller at 3:09 PM on June 1, 2005


Sure dios. Just as soon as I see a headline mentioning a Christian/Southerner/Conservative getting beaten/denied equal rights because of their ideologies or heritage.

Pull your head out.
posted by docpops at 3:10 PM on June 1, 2005


Florida has observed that in cities with a lot of art support, music, bohemian folks, and yes, gay folks there is also a higher concentration of successful hi-tech companies.

Hi-tech is a recent phenomenon, as is more open attitudes towards homosexuals in America. There also happens to be a longer history of hi-tech in America than there is gay friendly attitudes. You may recall that at the same time we were putting a man on the moon, we were also busting gay bars. Houston and Huntsville, though the center of our space race are not particularly singled out as bastions of homosexuality. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, though long one of the world's leading nuclear research locations is not known for its great gay scene. New York on the other hand has not had a long history with hi-tech. Sure the relatively recent computerization of big financial institutions have meant that hi-tech companies have entered into the NY economy, this is historically not the case. NY does, however, have a long history of more openness towards alternate lifestyles. The cause and effect are coincidental and not historical.

The most successful companies are the ones with the most creative employees with ideas that make money. Not many people will argue (I think) that running a successful company requires a degree of ingenuity and creativity from their employees.

It is true, however it can also be argued that artistic creativity and business savvy are different types of intelligence and not mutually exclusive.

In order for people to reach their creative potential, they need to work in an atmosphere that accepts them, their lifestyles, their personalities and beliefs in a way that's not judgmental. Otherwise they have to hide parts of their life which will hinder their ability to reach their absolute creative potential.

Possibly, however people have also done pretty well under adverse conditions, for example Werner Von Braun was a pretty good rocket man even under Hitler. The Soviet Union produced some pretty good rocket systems under oppressive conditions. What people need more it seems is motivation and resources more than lifestyle acceptance. Sure, its certainly true that any regime that stifles a particular development or idea does short change itself in that area. In the modern American context this would be stem cell research, however under Clinton nuclear testing was stopped, couldn't one then argue just as easily that Clinton era politics stifled nuclear research?

(Incidentally, not advocating nuclear testing or ceasing stem cell research, just arguing the point)
posted by Pollomacho at 3:19 PM on June 1, 2005


And by mutually exclusive, I mean completely the opposite. Thanks.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2005


however people have also done pretty well under adverse conditions

I was thinking this same thing.

I like Florida's stuff if for no other reason than the types of discussions it generates. It's interesting and gets people excited to argue what they think may be correct. It's a fun topic, as long as people are being nice to each other when they argue.
posted by chowder at 3:27 PM on June 1, 2005


Sure, its certainly true that any regime that stifles a particular development or idea does short change itself in that area. In the modern American context this would be stem cell research, however under Clinton nuclear testing was stopped, couldn't one then argue just as easily that Clinton era politics stifled nuclear research?

Ending a federal research subsidy != stifl(ing) a particular development or idea
posted by Kwantsar at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2005


And show how tail-wagging eager they are to provide citizenship and working papers to a mob of expat American towel designers aiming to put the native indigenous towel designers of Canada, Scandinavia and NZ out of work.

Ah, towel designing. That brings me back! It was one of the first classes I took when I came out and the Gay Cabal whisked me away to their secret hideout to get my B.A. in Destroying America.

You do realize that progressive communities that accept gays are also more likely to accept things like evolution, and boy, most scientists, engineers, and other educated people sure do like it when their kids are taught science in schools.
posted by schroedinger at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2005


re: artistic creativity and business savvy - see Warhol, Andy; also Koons, Jeff.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:33 PM on June 1, 2005


Possibly, however people have also done pretty well under adverse conditions, for example Werner Von Braun was a pretty good rocket man even under Hitler.

And what might Alan Turing have accomplished had homophobia not driven him to suicide?
posted by bashos_frog at 3:36 PM on June 1, 2005


You do realize that progressive communities that accept gays are also more likely to accept things like evolution, and boy, most scientists, engineers, and other educated people sure do like it when their kids are taught science in schools.

Interesting isn't it how those same scientists and engineers in some of the fastest growing hi-tech and scientific research areas of the US, such as California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, haven't gotten together to vote against Republican governors?

Granted, I think they'd be against that sort of thing, but you don't really see them making a difference. You know, Vanderbilt is a pretty good school with a pretty good med school attached, it is also where Bill Frist taught. I think you could say he is a member of the "Creative Community" but I don't think anyone would accuse him of being gay friendly.

This fiction of the liberal intelligentsia is what lost the last election, why perpetuate it folks?
posted by Pollomacho at 3:42 PM on June 1, 2005


And show how tail-wagging eager they are to provide citizenship and working papers to a mob of expat American towel designers...

Well, it took me about 60 days and a couple of trips to the immigration offices to get long-term resident status and working papers in Japan, while it took my Japanese wife about 4 years and a dozen trips to lawyers and INS to get the same status here in the US. Not to mention the fees which were about 70 times higher over here.

Draw your own conclusions, although I am a programmer and not a towel designer. Maybe there is a shortage of technically skilled people in Japan?
posted by bashos_frog at 3:42 PM on June 1, 2005


Interesting isn't it how those same scientists and engineers in some of the fastest growing hi-tech and scientific research areas of the US, such as California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, haven't gotten together to vote against Republican governors?

You think maybe they might be just a *little* bit outnumbered by the minimum-wage earning, church-going, FOX-watching segment of the population in those areas? And maybe a little more reluctant to get down in the mud to win an election? (Which is unfortunate.)
posted by bashos_frog at 3:45 PM on June 1, 2005


Re: This fiction of the liberal intelligentsia and Bill Frist et. al.

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are Conservative."


John Stuart Mill, in a letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March 1866)
posted by bashos_frog at 3:48 PM on June 1, 2005


You think maybe they might be just a *little* bit outnumbered by the minimum-wage earning, church-going, FOX-watching segment of the population in those areas?

Right, they are supposedly surrounded by stupid, easily influenced people. If they really are these elite, liberal brainiacs it would be pretty easy for them to convince those around them to vote their way.

Either there are too many smart people that aren't really liberal or the minimum wage slaves aren't really as stupid as we in the "liberal elite" have been lead to believe. I'm guessing that the truth is somewhere in between.

I am liberal and gay friendly and in a high hi-tech, high diversity area but I'm also convinced that people like me have underestimated the "red staters" as much as we are accused of doing. I'm also convinced that though Bush may suck, the end of the earth is not actually nigh. The US will weather the neo-cons just as we did McCarthysim, Nixon, the Great Depression, the Civil War and the influenza epidemic.

The fact of the matter is we are not cutting back our scientific research, nor has immigration slowed, nor, and this may be the most shocking, has immigration to red states slowed. There must be something terribly wrong!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:02 PM on June 1, 2005


Interesting isn't it how those same scientists and engineers in some of the fastest growing hi-tech and scientific research areas of the US, such as California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, haven't gotten together to vote against Republican governors?

Both Virginia's and North Carolina's governors are Democrats.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 4:21 PM on June 1, 2005


If they really are these elite, liberal brainiacs it would be pretty easy for them to convince those around them to vote their way.

Just like it was easy for Galileo to convince the Catholics of heliocentrism.

Honestly, there are many people who do not (or cannot) understand reason or logic, but respond well to charisma. A lot of them wind up stuck in minimum wage jobs, making weekly visits to see a preacher who convinces them to accept their lot in life 'for the glory of God' and watching FOX in their leisure time so they can get the 'fair and balanced' 'facts', that they use to figure out how they should vote.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:27 PM on June 1, 2005


outnumbered by the minimum-wage earning, church-going, FOX-watching segment of the population in those areas?

Yes, because clearly that describes anyone in a red state who does not have a high-tech job. Well done. Thanks for doing your part to reinforce the stereotype that people from the Northeast look down on people from the South/Midwest, anywhere that is not on the East Coast.
posted by mlis at 4:37 PM on June 1, 2005


Maybe the "creative class" will flock to the USA.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119038/
posted by muppetboy at 4:39 PM on June 1, 2005


We're nothing if not entertaining.
posted by muppetboy at 4:40 PM on June 1, 2005


Both Virginia's and North Carolina's governors are Democrats.

You are right, my bad, however their Senators are not, nor were their chices for President.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:40 PM on June 1, 2005


And by chices I mean choices.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:41 PM on June 1, 2005


Yes, because clearly that describes anyone in a red state who does not have a high-tech job.

It describes a large segment of the US population, and a segment that is larger proportionally outside of urban areas.

...people from the Northeast look down on people from the South/Midwest, anywhere that is not on the East Coast.

So are you saying that there is something shameful about working a minimum wage job? Or is there something shameful about going to church? Or is there something shameful about watching FOX?
(Well, OK - you got me on the last one.)
posted by bashos_frog at 4:47 PM on June 1, 2005


> Ah, towel designing. That brings me back! It was one of the first classes
> I took when I came out and the Gay Cabal whisked me away to their secret
> hideout to get my B.A. in Destroying America.

You're way oversensitive. Everyone knows towel designers come in all preferences. I myself got my junior associate certificate in terrycloth arts from Poulet D. Beauregard community college in Red Stick, Louisiana, where there are no gays because the Cabal recruiters whisked them all off (to Fire Island, Provincetown and Key West.) My designs feature Dale Earnhardt's Monte Carlo and cases of Bud. (And boy do they sell--which puts me squarely in Mr. Florida's creative class, so I don't need a job.) But any of y'all $100k-$300k per annum towel designers fixing to emigrate to Moose Jaw due to one imagined grievance or another, just be assured that your place will be occupied by one of my classmates--or by one of our Hispanic, Indian or East Asian immigrant friends--before the air can return to fill the volume you vacated. Yoda say Fungible you are, missed you will not be. (Except in those mighty engines of American commerce...Fire Island, Provincetown and Key West.)
posted by jfuller at 5:19 PM on June 1, 2005


Apparently, America is not losing the majority of its call centre jobs to India, but rather to Canada.

Flight of the creative class...?
posted by dreamsign at 6:29 PM on June 1, 2005


...government spending...

As long as it doesn't cost us taxpayers anything...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:08 PM on June 1, 2005


In many parts of the country such a couple [making $40,000 + $25,000] would need food stamps if they had children - nevermind owning a home.
posted by MLIS at 2:32 PM PST on June 1


I think you exagerrate, just a teeny tiny bit. I make $18,000 a year before taxes, and have a nice life and significant disposable income in Connecticut, which is crazy expensive. (Same prices for everything as Toronto, the most expensive place in Canada, only all the prices are in US dollars, not Canadian).

Also, middle fifth income being $50,000 - $70,000 does not make $100,000 middle class. Upper middle class, sure, but not middle class, not the way it is used in contemporary American rhetoric (implying average, etc - which it decidedly is not).

Back on topic. - I think Florida is overestimating the trouble of academics coming here.

Speaking as a foreign graduate student from one of those evil alien countries (Canada, you know, where Toronto is), it's super easy to go to school in the States. Even since the new system, the visa issues are really simple for anyone the Anglos (Can, Aus, NZ) or Europe, and the SEVIS sstem is all handled by our local office. It has been a lot of trouble for men from Muslim majority countries and, strangely, students from China. Applications from the PRC have dropped siginificantly at my university, which does affect science programs primarily. But that was only by about 10% - there are still many coming in.

But the big difference for how easy it is to go to graduate school is probably the non-citizen financial support. In the UK (where my first choice school was), universities have very little financial support to be given to students directly; the majority of support is through government grants that are limited to citizens. Along with an insanely arcane application system (both for funding and for admission), the UK presents a lot of barriers to foreign students, at least those outside of the sciences (scientists being usually supported by their supervisor). Canada has the same problem - the admission process is less arcane, but the major sources of funding for humanities and social science grads, at least, are limited to residents (SSHRC, etc).

It's probably because both places have public universities with small endowments - I'm totally in favour of public universities, because I would never have gotten as far as graduate school without them, but I am also in favour of them increasing their endowments to be more financially stable (especially considering how governments blow with every partisan wind).

Also, the UK should seriously look at organising their application process more like the US - it's streamlined, you find out from all schools by a certain date, and you know your funding (if you get in somewhere with standard funding) by that date too. I knew someone who wouldn't know their UK funding until 2 weeks before the program started - which would have been 2 weeks after the US program he also applied for started.

Then again, maybe I'm totally misunderstanding - I mean, graduate students might be creative and (sometimes) cultural, but their not exactly productive or useful :) So many you don't want too many of them.

---------

The call centres go to Canada because we have the nicest accents.
posted by jb at 8:19 PM on June 1, 2005


I make $18,000 a year before taxes, and have a nice life and significant disposable income in Connecticut, which is crazy expensive.

*head explodes*
posted by mlis at 8:48 PM on June 1, 2005


I make $18,000 a year before taxes, and have a nice life and significant disposable income in Connecticut, which is crazy expensive.

I make $20,000 a year before taxes, live in a part of North Carolina with a higher cost of living than Connecticut had when I grew up there (not too long ago), and also have a significant disposable income. I'm certainly not rich, but I manage to smoke and drink far too much on my pitiful income, pay my bills on time, and (usually) not worry much about money. Wealth is wasted on the rich (and $100K/year is definitely rich by any objective measure).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:02 PM on June 1, 2005


SteveInMaine: I believe Florida contends part of the problem is that the U.S. is no longer quite so welcoming to immigrants. What ends up happening is they are get their education here and then go back home to make use of what they've learned. I don't see this as much of a negative...

Well, except for the fact that university is heavily funded by tax dollars...so, even paying "out of state" rates, they still end up taking more from the system than they return...which means that the American tax payer is funding the education of a worker class from which we will not benefit. Also, it's pretty easy to game the system and get in-state rates, which at least in Texas are extraordinarily cheap compared to European universities.

Pollomacho: The birth rate in the US is at an all time low, however US population grows at about 2.5 million people each year, one of the highest growth rates in the industrialized world (Britain's growth rate is approximately one quarter of the US). Apparently we have a real problem with brain drain in this country.

Numbers are one thing, but how many of that 2.5 million are engineers, doctors, scientists, artists and musicians? That, rather than sheer volume of number is what's important here.

I live in the Southwest. I *had* to learn Spanish when I moved here because the majority of the "hard work" class are non-English speaking. A fair amount of the yard guys, construction guys and maintenance guys I've dealt with are not legal immigrants. They crossed the border and never looked back. I know of people that are in the 3rd generation of undocumented, which is absurd.

Don't get me wrong...I'm all about immigration. Legally. Give me your poor, your wretched, your tired...but jaysus, follow the freaking rules. I realize that the immigration system is ridiculous and I fully agree that it should be scrapped and redone, but until it is...there is a ruleset...albeit a somewhat insane one.

I want immigration. But just as we need the ditch diggers and the sommeliers, we need the artists, the thinkers, the dreamers, the visionaries, the poets and the entrepreneurs.

America has always been founded on its intellectual strength. To deny entry to the Experiment is to kill it. To force the dreamers out to find a new Xanadu...that's just stupid.

mk1gti : What I am curious about is who on Meta considers themselves a member of the creative class and where in the country they currently live and to what part of the country would they consider locating short of leaving the country for better venues.

Given the definition in the article, I am probably a full-on member of the creative class. My husband also. He is a coder of extraordinary brilliance, I am a mommy first, but also write, paint, sculpt, do 3d stills, character design, and animation that sell well in the sci-fi and comic markets, run an IT consulting company and a handmade soap and aromatherapy business. Before I stepped away from 80-100 hour a week corporate jobs, I launched 3 successful IPOs. Creative Class? Sure, if one had to try and stuff me into a category, that one would probably fit better than most.

If the cost of property were do-able, I'd so be in San Fran, Seattle or Portland. Medford, Oregon is high on my list of possible sites for an organic herb and berry farm. Also, I really love Northampton, MA...except for the weather. The weather...bleh. (Also, they all seemed very confused by southern women, but I'm sure they'd acclimate eventually.) I think some of the islands around Vancouver may be on the American side, but either way, they're stunning and I wouldn't mind living on an artist's colony.

If the neocons win again...I'm not sure I'll keep fighting. I may, or I may just acknowledge that what the country wants is not what I want, and go find a country that suits my philosophies and a culture under which I want to raise my son. Freedom from conformity is more important to me than many other things.

dios: Want low taxes and cost of living and progessive environment? Try Austin or Portland.

Maybe in 1993. But not now. Austin (Travis County) has twice the cost of living of Dallas County if one includes housing/land. It's hovering near Houston. When I left Austin in 1993, I sold my 1940's teeny little stone house on a few acres for 150k or so. That same house is currently for sale and the owner is asking close to seven figures. (Which is just insane, it really is.) My sister's house has quadrupled in tax assessment value in just 6 years. And Travis county has much higher property tax rates than I do in Dallas county.

jp: I make $18,000 a year before taxes, and have a nice life and significant disposable income in Connecticut, which is crazy expensive.

Wow. Color me impressed. Seriously, no sarcasm. That's a level of financial wizardry that could be envied by the Feds. I hear Greenspan is retiring...maybe you could submit a resume? The country needs you man...step up to the plate! ;)
posted by dejah420 at 9:13 PM on June 1, 2005


jb: Full-disclosure on your part would have been nice. Y'know, like, "I make $18,000 a year before taxes, live in University housing, have a meal plan and stipend and have a nice life and significant disposable income in Connecticut, which is crazy expensive.

Wealth is wasted on the rich (and $100K/year is definitely rich by any objective measure).

Whatever that means. I know public school teachers (yes, regular classroom teachers) in the NYC suburbs who make 100K a year. You may consider them "rich"; I do not.

They make a great salary, no doubt. But they live in modest, 3 bedroom houses, drive modest 8-year old high mileage cars, and work part-time tutoring jobs.

But you go ahead and consider them "rich". My definition of "rich" is reserved for people like like Warren Buffet & Steve Ballmer
posted by mlis at 9:19 PM on June 1, 2005


waving hand: call center employee.
It's not so bad where I'm at now, other call center jobs I've been in were just absolute crap. I'm talking 40% of staff at a major call center on anti-depressents and stress-related leave.
Now I just live for my time away from the center where I can work on my photography, architecture and design, my real passions. And Me-Fi.
Perhaps later I'll go back to school, but for now I'm just hangin' and starting to enjoy life where once it was just absolute misery. I'm also in a similar situation to some of the others here who lucked into a really nice living situation: 150.00 a month for a five-bedroom house. Sure I share it with housemates, but they're all gone for the most part during the evenings and weekends so *whoopee* ! ! !
posted by mk1gti at 10:04 PM on June 1, 2005


MLIS - Did you get that from my previous comments? That was actually last year - God, I miss the dorm, so convenient, library across the street. Actually, it was pretty expensive - $1000/month for room and board - same price as private housing and food. But yes, they really do spoil us - they are afraid of the graduate teachers unionising, so they throw money at us. (I would rather they upped the stipends of students with children, or actually provided research funding, but who said universities were run by smart people?)

Sorry, I should have said I was single and don't have dependents, that was an unfortunate oversight (I meant to). But your comment was about a couple with children making $65,000 being on foodstamps. A couple with children might very well be very well be on foodstamps on $18,000 a year, which is why I support larger busuries for students with dependents. But that is a far cry from $65,000.

This is my projected budget for a family of 4 in CT:

rent for a 3 bedroom apartment/house: $1200-$1600/month - maybe as high as $2000
utilities and phone - $150
internet (I am a student!) - $30-50
Food for 4 people - $300-400/month

clothes and toys - $500/year (poor people really don't spend much)

(you probably don't have a car - you're poor, remember? But if you must have one - I'm really guessing here because my family has never had a car due to lack of money) - car - $2000/year insurance, $200 month in gas?

I'm getting $31,000 / year, and no food stamps. Of course, I imagine you have to be truly suffering before you would even qualify for foodstamps. In my experience, there is very little help for people on the edge, to prevent them from falling into deep poverty.

It's not the most luxurious lifestyle, but it's what a lot of people live with. And more than my family had my whole childhood (actually, about twice). So yes, you will forgive me for thinking that people with $65,000 are quite comfortable. Not rich, but comfortable. $100,000 is
decidedly upper middle class, and $300,000 - 500,000 is rich.

And the Warren Buffets & Steve Ballmers of the world? So beyond my ken I don't even understand them. Their world is utterly alien.
posted by jb at 11:35 PM on June 1, 2005


These boks sound like a bizarro "Atlas Shrugged."
posted by Snyder at 12:52 AM on June 2, 2005


criminey. bok bok B-KOK! bok=book
posted by Snyder at 12:53 AM on June 2, 2005


jfuller: And show how tail-wagging eager they are to provide citizenship and working papers to a mob of expat American towel designers aiming to put the native indigenous towel designers of Canada, Scandinavia and NZ out of work.


I'm in NZ. We'll gladly take all the towel designers you can send us. With unemployment at the lowest in the OECD, our main economic problem is finding enough people to fill vacancies. Course, salaries here are pretty low. And our Skilled Migrant Worker programme only has 27, 000 places per annum, so it's not like you could all move here.

Florida's ideas are quite popular here, though media coverage seems to have fixated on the gay angle. Here's an article which mentions the mayor of my town as a fan of his work. A few years ago she was very gung ho about trying to get the city to fit his model, though she hasn't said much about it recently.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:33 AM on June 2, 2005


jb, your projected budget for a family of 4 neglects health insurance costs, life insurance costs, savings, any sort of buffer for emergencies, education costs, household good costs, furniture costs, and so on.

Once you get off school insurance, you will be shocked with a capital S at how much it costs to protect yourself from bankruptcy at the hands of disease or injury, and how much it takes to keep a family of 4 running at a moderate level of comfort.

If you ever move to an actually expensive area, you may further revise your notion of what middle class is.
posted by felix at 10:43 AM on June 2, 2005


Wanted to say that whoever thinks that an immigrant visa to the US is $100 is living in a nice happy little dream.

As of March 2005 :

Initial appointment fee : $185
Medical exam : $100 (May vary)
Blood work/chest xray : $100 (May vary)
Final appointment fee : $385

Cash only, thanks.

And oh, if you need documents translated, that'll add about $20 per document. Get out your wallet and prepare to cry.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:56 AM on June 2, 2005


jb, your projected budget for a family of 4 neglects health insurance costs, life insurance costs, savings, any sort of buffer for emergencies, education costs, household good costs, furniture costs, and so on.

Sorry felix, I did forget health care. I guess that's what comes from growing up in a country with universal health care. How much is health care for a family? How much would it be for someone with a plan through their work (which is very possible for our fictional family), and how much to insure themselves?

But you might have noticed there still was about $30,000 left over. Are you saying that all of these things are more than $30,000 a year? How many times is our fictional family expected to buy furniture? Really expensive furniture a couple times a year? (Of course, I think anything not from Ikea is really expensive - and salvation army/craig's list is better. This is not a student attitude - most of my mother's furniture cost less than mine did).

What do you mean by education costs? Doesn't the US have state-supported primary and secondary education? Paper and school supplies would be about $100 a year, tops, unless you have to actually pay for your books (this would be shocking). As for tertiary education - well, I paid all that myself, so you can understand why I wouldn't have include it in a family budget. Paying for your children's tertiary education is a middle class thing to do.

The original comment was that a family making $65,000 would be on food stamps. Clearly, they would not. For one thing, most would have given up a great deal first - including health insurance, or scaled right back. That's what very poor people do.

Also, you might have noticed, but poor people tend not to have savings or buffers for emergencies. It's all part of the wonderful experience we call being poor, as opposed to being middle class.

The fact that you would even think to include some of these things shows that you are thinking of our fictional family as middle class, which they would be. Not rich, not poor - all out middling, and quite comfortable.*

My idea of middle class would probably be pretty low - If I and my fiance had $40,000 a year, I think we would be very happy and thinking of having kids (though, yes, we would much rather do this in a country with actual health care, and I'd take $40,000 CND in Canada over $40,000 USD in States). But that doesn't mean that $100,000 is suddenly just getting by.

*No, I don't know about NYC or San Francisco. But then, neither do most Americans. There are some choices made in chosing to live there. I'm no one to advocate moving to the flyover states, considering I don't know how to drive, but there are cheaper places within commuting distance of NYC to live, if Manhatten is too expensive, places the same price or less as where I am in CT. I know someone who did commute to NYC for a year, one partner of a couple who were living off a graduate student's stipend and a Teach for America salary. I never saw their place in NY state, but I think they rented a house.
posted by jb at 4:09 PM on June 2, 2005


Sorry - I don't mean to play down the very real struggles that the working poor have in North America. I am very familiar with how wages often are not enough to support a family, and that you can be working full-time and still not have enough to get by (which is why I support raising minimum wages).

But I also think that people who have not lived this way also haven't realised how much what they think are necessary costs of living really are luxuries they enjoy because they are middle class. Many middle class people, and especially upper middle class people, don't understand just how very comfortable they are.

grapefruitmoon: You are right about the high costs of some people face getting a visa.

But, for student visas at least, that cost varies dramatically depending on your citizenship. Canadians pay $6 at the border - no interview, no medical exam. The Brit I know paid somewhat more - maybe $100, maybe $200, but I don't think he had to do an interview. I know he paid siginificantly less than the Indian citizen I know, who had to pay for interviews, etc - she probably paid at least as much as you have quoted, and unlike any Canadians or Europeans, she will have to renew in five years (we have duration of stay). People from the third world have it worst. It has been a real hardship for many mainland Chinese students who fear to go home for a visit in case they are denied a visa to return. My Taiwanese friend, however, has not mentioned any worries about this to me - she returns a few times a year. She does have to get a visa to stopover anywhere, I think for layovers as well, but she hasn't had any trouble getting back into the States.

However, I wonder how different this would have been from getting a student visa to go to Canada or to the UK. and whether this would outweigh the real difficulties of applying and getting funding in either place. Certainly the new process did impact applications to my graduate school - but they have started to go up again, and will soon be at the same rate.

I have met a New Zealander who did not apply to any American universities, but that was because the GRE was so annoying to take in NZ.
posted by jb at 4:48 PM on June 2, 2005


Medical insurance in the US for a family of 4 *alone* could easily eat up that 30K/year.

Without intending offense, jb, I think being in school in Canada might not be giving you the best understanding of budgetary concerns for a middle class family in the United States.

"Middle class" for me is: having the opportunity to own your own home (in my case, a small shack in the barrio, $365,000), have at least averagely-educated children (owing to the state of the US public schools, $500+ a month per child), health insurance rivalling Canada's, life insurance so if the single earner dies the family can continue without becoming hopelessly destitute, a single paycheck (quality of life for the kids), two cars, cable TV, internet access, clothes from the Gap and furniture not from Ikea.

This is the pretty-much-standard definition of middle class from the 50s. One would have a hard time arguing that any of it was 'upper class'. And there is no way on earth that it would be remotely possible on 30K/year.
posted by felix at 9:41 AM on June 3, 2005


Actually felix, I'm in school in the States.

Sorry, I did not say $30,000 a year was middle class. There seems to have been some confusion. I actually tried posting a clarification, but metafilter jruned. My point was that even at $30,000, which as you point out would be very tight, and likely uninsured if you don't have it through work. Even possibly on food stamps, though I don't know if you would be accepted before cutting back a lot more. But that estimation was made in response to the comment that $65,000 = food stamps in some places.

My American roommate would term herself middle class - she grew up in a middle-class suburb, went to good middle class schools. I asked her about this post, and she thought I wasn't far off. Because her father was self-employed, her family was self-insured, and they did not spend $30,000 on it. Granted, it was not very good coverage at all, but that seems to reflect being a self-employed American, not your class. They did have a single income family.

It's interesting that you assume health care is paid entirely out of pocket. Most Americans I speak to tell me that there is not enough support for universal health care from the middle class because most middle class Americans have plans through their employment. But you seem to assume this family wouldn't.

I'm also confused about this education cost - do average Americans put their children in private school? Apparently it's only 1 in 10.

You are also very interestingly to be mixing your standards. You want the fictional family to have a middle class lifestyle on one income, like the fifties, but you want things which have only become "middle class" since dual incomes - like two cars, cable tv, and internet access. Your middle class family is consuming far more than the proposed middle class family from the fifties.

I say all this not as a Canadian reflecting simply on American society, but as a North American. The two cultures are very similar, though there are some differences (health care being the main one - I can't think of any others - your public education is generally just as good as ours). And the same phenonmenon happens there - upper middle class people think they are middle class, and just don't realise how well to do they are.

The only reliable definition of a "middle class", at least if we want it to have any meaning in terms of "average" as it seems to be used constantly in North American political discourse, is to actually look at average incomes.

Your own comment points out that "the median family earns 43,527. California @ 48,979, New Jersey @ 55,221, New York @ 43,160, West Virginia @ 31,210. This according to the Census Bureau. The 'third fifth' in 2001 earned a mean of $51,538. So if you define 'middle class' tightly around that, then around 40k-70k is 'middle class'. " Notably, your "middle class" is not centered on the medians - which range between basically $40-50,000 - but takes those as a floor. That's not defining middle class as average, but above average. Which is not how it is used in American or Canadian rhetoric (though it may fit how it is used in British rhetoric).

I recognise the differences in costs of living - I grew up in a place where a three bedroom apartment (with roaches in a bad neighbourhood) costs what a house would elsewhere in Canada. Frankly, the poor confront cost of living issues far more often, because they may not even be able to relocate as easily.

The original comment was that $65,000 = food stamps. It doesn't. To many, many people it equals a comfortable middle class existence - but perhaps their middle class is not as comfortable as your oroposal (which sounds awfully upper middle class to me). Perhaps it doesn't buy Leave it to Beaver in SF, but then I imagine the Cleavers never would live in SF (a little too colourful). In fact, your whole 50s definition of "middle class" is predicated on the middle class moving out to cheaper suburbs, like they did in the 1950s. It was rich people who lived well in expensive places then, as now.

I actually worry about the way people define middle class, because they are happy for it to be so vague, and to move up and down dramatically. But it's destructive to our public policy. A politician says "this is good for the middle class" and he's talking about people making $100-200,000 a year. And it's something terrible for people making $50,000 a year. But they will still vote for it, because they consider themselves "middle class", and that proposition is good for the "middle class".
posted by jb at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2005


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