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One Reason It's So Hard to Become a 'Creative Superstar City'

A new study finds that cities with successful “creative economies” must have robust non-creative industries, too.
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Flickr/Stefano Montagner

The new economy is a creative one, with knowledge workers increasingly powering innovation and growth. And while creativity is theoretically a limitless resource, a new study finds that a relatively narrow group of metros have emerged as winners in America’s creative economy—and discovers how much ground other metros must gain to catch up with them.

The study’s authors, Arizona State University researchers Shade Shutters, Rachata Muneepeerakul, and Jose Lobo, take a detailed look at the growth and development of the creative economy between 2005 and 2013, before and after the Great Recession. (In the interest of full disclosure, I found the study so interesting that I made it a Martin Prosperity Institute working paper.) The authors use Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the approximately 800 occupations that make up the U.S. economy to find the leading creative metros in the country. In the study, “creative occupations” are defined as those spanning science and technology; arts, culture, entertainment, and media; and business and management. The study’s authors then map the interplay between creative occupations and other parts of the economy, isolating and examining the role that these creative industries play in the productivity and affluence of all 360-plus U.S. metros.