A while back Steve Sailer wrote a print review of Richard Florida’s book. He still links to the website’s paper, even though it can no longer be found there. I have told him about it and asked that he host it on his own site, but he didn’t respond. I found a copy of it though which I will preserve for posterity in case that page also goes down.

Review of Richard Florida’s Cities and the Creative Class

by Steve Sailer

Washington Examiner, Feb. 14, 2005


On St. Valentine’s Day, a young Washingtonian’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. So how does D.C. rank as a place to find Mr. or Ms. Right? And if you are already in love, is it good for being married?

On the other 364 days, however, a young Washingtonian’s brain heavily focuses on stratagems of politics, so what impact does romance and marriage have on voting?

George Mason U. professor Richard Florida’s new graph and table-laden book Cities and the Creative Class (Routledge, $19.95 paperback, pp. 198) doesn’t concentrate much on l’amour, but does provide ample statistical evidence that the Washington metro area abounds in both highly eligible singles and in classy places for romantic dates.

The general D.C. region ranks high, along with the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Seattle and Austin, in the kinds of people Dr. Florida believes drive prosperity: the well-educated, software programmers, technology entrepreneurs, and the like. Moreover, Washington offers lots of arts, culture, and ethnic restaurants ideal for dating.

In the District itself, not all the good ones are taken. A study I did for VDARE.com of what made blue states blue revealed that D.C. residents, of whom only 9 percent voted for Bush, were much less likely to be married than the citizens of any state. During the 27 years from age 18 through 44, the average black woman in D.C. could only expect to be married an average of 3.9 years, compared to 5.4 years in the lowest state, Pennsylvania.

Likewise, the deeply Democratic 18-44 year old white women of D.C. average merely 7.4 years of marriage, compared to 12.2 in the bluest state, Massachusetts, and 17.0 in the reddest state, Utah. When D.C.’s white Democrats marry, they typically head to blue Maryland, where youngish white women average 14.0 years of marriage versus 14.7 in red Virginia.

Remarkably, Bush carried all of the top 25 states in average years married among white women.

It’s Dr. Florida’s much publicized theory, which he developed during the Internet Bubble of the late 1990s, that an urban region’s economic success depends on its tolerance level. He argues, “Diverse, inclusive communities that welcome unconventional people—gays, immigrants, artists, and free-thinking ‘bohemians’—are ideal for nurturing the creativity and innovation that characterize the knowledge economy…”

Unfortunately, as a theory of economic development, this book suffers from the same combination of obviousness and obtuseness that plagued Dr. Florida’s first paean to “Talent, Technology, and Tolerance,” 2002’s The Rise of the Creative Class.

Sure, regions with smarter people tend to enjoy higher incomes. But, most high tech centers, such as the Dulles Corridor, develop far out in the suburbs away from the hip parts of town. The nerds who invent the new gizmos and the golf-playing business people who sell them tend to be relatively monogamous and family-oriented, and thus soon wind up in the ‘burbs, with their backyards and quality public schools.

And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida’s footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys?

In the 1970s, for example, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston’s unhip oil companies rich for a decade.

In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas (“Sin City”) rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida’s talent tables because his kind of folks can’t make much money in either. So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.


Steve Sailer (iSteve.com) is the film critic for The American Conservative and the Monday columnist for VDARE.com.

UPDATE: This from the WSJ seems relevant.

UPDATE 2: Steve Malanga in City Journal critiques Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” and his theories more generally here.

Update 3: Excerpts from Sailer’s review of “Who’s Your City?”.