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Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class makes a compelling argument that urban development now depends on novel combinations of knowledge and ideas, that certain occupations specialize in this task, that people in these occupations are drawn to areas providing a high quality of life, and that the essential development strategy is to create an environment that attracts and retains these workers. While developed with urban areas in mind, this thesis may be particularly relevant in rural areas, which lose much of their young talent as high school graduates leave for college, the armed forces, or "city lights."

Our analysis of recent development in rural U.S. counties, which focuses on natural amenities (for which ERS has also computed county-level scores) as quality-of-life indicators, supports the creative class thesis. A repetition for urban counties also shows a st/trong relationship between creative class presence and growth, although natural amenities play a smaller role. However, our results depend on a recast creative class measure, which excludes from the original Florida measure many occupations with low creativity requirements and those involved primarily in economic reproduction (i.e., numbers proportional to population). Our measure conforms more closely to the concept of creative class and proves to be more highly associated with regional development than the original Florida measure.

Other work by Florida has demonstrated that a critical subset of the creative class is that comprised of fine, performing, and applied artists. His "Bohemian index"-the share of employment in arts occupations-is strongly associated with new firm formation and high-tech specialization in metropolitan areas. ERS research 16x16 - PDF confirms that nonmetro counties with a surplus of artists tend to have higher rates of employment growth and new firm formation.  The creative class codes data file also breaks out the share of employment in the arts.

Identifying Creative Occupations

O*NET, a Bureau of Labor Statistics data set that describes the skills generally used in occupations, was used to identify occupations that involve a high level of "thinking creatively." This skill element is defined as "developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions." See examples of occupation's O*NET skill ranking for the "thinking creatively" descriptor.

The O*NET compendium, previously known as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, is produced by the Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, and provides comprehensive information on the functional requirements of more than 1,000 detailed occupations. The creativity measure provides a quantitative, though arguably imperfect, reference for assessing the creativity requirements among summary occupations that typically require a high degree of education.

Refining the Occupation Classification

Occupations were removed from consideration in the creative class measure-even if they typically required high levels of creativity-when their numbers are generally proportional to the residential population they serve (such as schoolteachers, judges, and medical doctors). Specifically, the measure excludes the summary "health care practitioners and technical occupations" group and schoolteachers and aides in the "education, training, and library" occupational group. We argue that such economic reproduction character does not disqualify college professors and "librarians, curators, and archivists" as their services are often provided to a nonresident population. Purging legal support occupations and judges while retaining lawyers might be questioned. However, the important role that lawyers play in devising solutions to new problems created by economic development is a compelling argument for their inclusion.

"Life, physical, and social science technicians" are excluded from the recast classification due to generally low requirements for creative thinking, although technicians in "architecture and engineering occupations" are retained due to higher requirements for creative thinking. This same justification for exclusion applies to "business operations specialists" and "other financial specialists" within the "business and financial operations" occupational group. Within "management occupations," "farmers and farm managers" are excluded due to low creativity requirements of farmers as reported in O*NET. However, management positions in public administration that would be appropriately excluded given the economic reproduction criterion are not separated from other management positions in the classification and so are retained. "Supervisory sales" creates a problem as many small business owners fall in this category, yet in the 2000 Census of Population, the category is mixed with other sales occupations (although not retail sales and cashiers). We have kept this larger category in the recast creative class as we are uncomfortable with excluding small business owners.

Creative class as reformulated by ERS

Occupation title Standard Occupation Code (SOC)
Management occupations:
Top executives 11-1000
Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers 11-2000
Financial managers 11-3030
Operations specialties managers, except financial managers 11-3010, 11-3020, 11-3040 through 11-3070
Other management occupations, except farmers and farm managers 11-9020 through 11-9190
Business and financial operations occupations:
Accountants and auditors 13-2011
Computer and mathematical occupations:
Computer specialists 15-1000
Mathematical science occupations 15-2000
Architecture and engineering occupations:
Architects, surveyors, and cartographers 17-1000
Engineers 17-2000
Drafters, engineering, and mapping technicians 17-3000
Life, physical, and social science occupations:
Life and physical scientists 19-1000 and 19-2000
Social scientists and related workers 19-3000
Legal occupations:
Lawyers 23-1011
Education, training, and library occupations:
Postsecondary teachers 25-1000
Librarians, curators, and archivists 25-4000
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations:
Art and design workers* 27-1000*
Entertainers and performers, sports, and related workers* 27-2000*
Media and communications workers 27-3000 and 27-4000
Sales and related occupations:
Sales representatives, services, wholesale and manufacturing 41-3000 and 41-4000
Other sales and related occupations, including supervisors 41-1000 and 41-9000
*These two categories comprise the arts occupation subset.

Using the occupations as detailed in the table, data from the 2000 Census of Population, summary file 4 was compiled for 3,139 counties (due to small sample size there are no data for Kalawao, HI, and Loving, TX). The share of the employed population 16 years and older in these occupations represents the ERS measure of creative class.

The creative class measure was also constructed for 1990. Creative class occupations from the finest level of detail in the 2000 Census occupational data (93 occupations) were used to define the 1990 creative class, constructed from 1990 Equal Employment Opportunity special tabulation files, much more disaggregate data (512 occupations). A major change in the Standard Occupational Classification codes between 1990 and 2000 complicated the construction of comparable measures, as the 2000 occupations did not correspond to summary 1990 occupations. The majority of the codes in 2000 could be constructed from the disaggregate 1990 data, but a number of detailed 1990 occupations were distributed across creative class and non-creative class occupational codes in 2000. Conversion factors that partitioned the 1990 data to correspond with the 2000 codes were computed from the U.S. Census Bureau's Technical Paper #65 (The Relationship Between The 1990 Census and Census 2000 Industry and Occupation Classification Systems ) for "managers and administrators, n.e.c., salaried;" "inspectors and compliance officers, except construction;" and "sales representatives, mining, manufacturing, and wholesale."

The change in the Standard Occupational Classification also affected the compilation of arts occupations as a subset of the creative class. Within the 93 detailed occupations included in the 2000 Census STF4 file, "Art and design workers" and "Entertainers and performers, sports, and related workers" are the only two categories that are not substantially co-mingled with non-arts occupations. The corresponding 1990 occupational categories are "Designers," "Painters, sculptors, craft-artists, and artist printmakers," "Photographers," and "Artists, performers, and related workers, n.e.c.," "Musicians and composers," "Actors and directors," "Dancers" and "Athletes." The 2000 aggregation does not allow purging athletes from the data series, though they comprise a minimal share of the total, nor does it allow the inclusion of authors who are co-mingled with the considerably larger number of technical writers.

These refinements resulted in an estimated creative class share of the workforce of 21 percent in 1990 (23 percent in metro areas and 14 percent in nonmetro areas) and 25 percent in 2000 (27 percent in metro and 17 percent in nonmetro).

For a complete discussion of ERS research on the creative class, see "Recasting the Creative Class To Examine Growth Processes in Rural and Urban Counties 16x16 - PDF," by David A. McGranahan and Timothy R. Wojan, Regional Studies Vol. 41 No. 2, pp. 197-216, April 2007.

Related Resources

Last updated: Thursday, July 05, 2012

For more information contact: David McGranahan and Tim Wojan

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