Chris Barron/Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau

Which metros have the highest share of creative class workers?

The map below charts the creative class across U.S. cities and metro regions. Nationwide, the creative class totals more than 40 million workers, more than a third of the total workforce, including professionals in the fields of science and technology, design and architecture, arts, entertainment and media, and healthcare, law, management and education.

The slideshow below lists the 20 metros with the largest concentrations of the creative class. These new rankings, compiled by my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Kevin Stolarick, are based on data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Durham, North Carolina, where the creative class makes up 48.4 percent of the workforce, tops the list. San Jose, California, is second, followed by greater Washington, D.C.; Ithaca, New York; and Boulder, Colorado. Rounding out the top 10 are Trenton, New Jersey (which includes Princeton); Huntsville, Alabama; Corvallis, Oregon; Boston, and Ann Arbor. Among the top 20 creative class metros are Tallahassee, Gainesville, Rochester, Minnesota; Charlottesville, Hartford, Bridgeport, San Francisco; Olympia, Washington; Madison, and Burlington.

There are some noticeable absences among the top 20. Greater New York ranks 34th, with 34.9 percent of its workforce in the Creative Class; Chicago is 44th (35.1 percent); and Los Angeles is 60th (34.1 percent).

This list of top-tier metros belies the fatalistic notion that geography is destiny. It includes many northern Frost Belt locations, among them Ann Arbor, in the very shadow of Detroit. Greater Detroit, on the other hand, scores a surprisingly high rank of 53rd, which bodes reasonably well for its future. Some of Detroit’s suburbs have among the very highest concentrations of the creative class in the nation.

The geography of the creative class has become more uneven over the past decade. Back when I did the initial metro rankings using 1999 data, the highest share of the creative class was about 35 percent. Today, it's pushing 50 percent. There are a dozen metros where it is 40 percent or more, and 34 more where it is 35–40 percent of the workforce. There are 105 metros where the creative class accounts for between 30 and 35 percent of the workforce and 162 where it makes up between 25 and 30 percent of the workforce. On the flip side, there is one metro where the creative class makes up less than 20 percent of the workforce and 48 where it accounts for between 20 and 25 percent.

Ten years ago, the metros with the very lowest concentrations of the creative class were small, mostly tourist destinations. That is still the case today: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Dalton, Georgia; Ocala and Naples, Florida; Ocean City, New Jersey, and manufacturing towns in the old Rust Belt, like Elkhart, Indiana; Sandusky, Ohio; and Michigan City, Michigan, all cluster at the bottom of the list. Houma, Louisiana, an oil town, ranks near the bottom as well. Las Vegas had just 22.7 percent of its workforce in the creative class, placing it in the bottom 10 of all U.S. metros.

This post is an abridged and revised excerpt of material from The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, from Basic Books.

Top image courtesy of Chris Barron/Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau

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