Creative Class or Procreative Class

Laura Reese, Plymouth, MI

Local economic revitalization policy is driven by fads: festival marketplaces, aquariums, downtown malls, pedestrian streets, high technology corridors, artists collaboratives, river walks and even casinos. Strategies thought effective in some circumstances are quickly adopted by a wide range of communities, often with little evaluative support. Not surprisingly, none have proven the “silver bullet” that would solve the variety of economic challenges communities face. Currently an emphasis on the “creative class” is en vogue (Florida, 2002). The argument is that young, educated, and creative professionals stimulate economic growth by innovating, creating, and starting businesses. Thus, cities must become attractive to this class by emphasizing entertainment, arts, lively street scenes, restaurants and so on.

But, what if the real driver of economically sustainable cities is not the creative class but the procreative class? Young to midlife families may be the real bedrock of a healthy community. To attract them, a different package of amenities and services is required: good schools, safe streets, recreational opportunities for all ages, solid public services, and libraries. Using a national database this project evaluates the relative merits of the creative and procreative classes in supporting sustainable economic health in cities over time. By identifying the correlates of economic growth, local officials can be given more effective policy direction so they can avoid fads and implement strategies leading to healthy cities in the long term. While there is no “one size fits all solution,” investing in quality of life should be every community’s true urban strategy.

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