Where are creatives taking to the road? Flickr/La Citta Vita

D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Houston, and Dallas draw those with "symbolic knowledge."

America’s economic and social fabric has been remade over time through a series of great migrations: settlers heading west; farmers and new immigrants to great industrial centers; blacks from the rural South to the urban North; the middle class from the urban centers to the suburbs; and more recently, from an ongoing dual migration of the skilled and less skilled I dubbed “the means migration.”

But which metros have proven best at attracting the creative class, the roughly 40 million workers (a third of the U.S. workforce) whose occupations span science and technology; arts, design, media and entertainment; and the knowledge-based professions, like medicine and law?

A recent study [document download] from Charlynn Burd, a geographer at the Census Bureau’s Journey to Work and Migration Statistics Branch, provides important new detail on where the creative class moves. Her study uses detailed data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to trace the migration of the creative class from for various time periods between 1995 and 2011.

She traces these moves by age, by race, and by three major types of creative class workers: workers who draw on “synthetic knowledge,” like scientists, software and computer workers and mathematicians; those who draw on “analytical knowledge," mainly engineers and architects; and those who draw on “symbolic knowledge” and work in arts, music, film, design, entertainment and media.

***

Let’s start with age. Many confuse the creative class with young workers. The reality is that the creative class spans all age groups. Younger members of the creative class are far more likely to move than older ones, which is in line with broader trends. Just slightly fewer than half of creative-class workers moved between 1995 and 2000.

The graph below, from Burd’s study, illustrates how moves decline as members of the creative class grow older.  As the chart shows, the age-related decline in creative-class moves is far less pronounced than that of other types of workers.

(Burd)

The pattern is similar for all three types of creative-class workers. The analytic creative class had the largest total number of movers (613,251 in total), while the synthetic creative class was the least mobile (with only 12.4 percent having moved during the study period).

The U.S. has long been a magnet for the world’s creative-class workers. Burd’s study shows that the U.S. attracted 38,035 creatives from Asia and another 14,313 from Europe between 2007 and 2011.

***

But where are the members of the creative class going?

To get at this, Burd charted migration of the creative class overall and its three main types of workers across U.S. metros, comparing the period 2006-2008 to that of 2009-2011.  The table below shows the key trends.

Leading Metros for Creative Class Migration
2006-2008 2009-2011
Metro Number of Movers
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria* 4,596 8,227
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 4,297 5,385
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy 3,251 3,712
San Jose- Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 3,240 3,739
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 986 2,811
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 4,230 4,021
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont 4,939 2,614
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue* 5,733 2,709
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro 3,162 1,829
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 4,096 3,978
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta* 3,490 1,181
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 2,988 1,964
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield 1,710 1,977
Las Vegas-Paradise* 1,599 386
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale 2,066 1,418

(Source:  American Community Survey 2006-2008 and 2009-20113-year data. Note: an asterisk (*) reflects a statistically significant difference between the two periods.)

Washington, D.C., was the big winner, attracting significant numbers of creative class workers in both periods and leading the nation in the later 2009-2011 period. Other metros that attracted considerable numbers of the creative class include Houston, Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York.

The second chart below shows the pattern for the three major types of creative class workers: analytic, synthetic, and symbolic.

Leading Metros by Type of Creative Class Worker

2006-2008 2009-2011
Analytic Workers Number of Movers
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria 4,397 5,278
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont* 4,175 2,080
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue* 4,114 2,122
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 3,580 2,994
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta* 3,081 1,041
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 2,184 3,260
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 1,642 2,428
Synthetic Workers Number of Movers
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 2,617 2,689
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue* 1,434 172
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 1,205 845
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 1,094 816
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos 912 283
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria* 207 1,698
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy* 143 1,066
Symbolic Workers Number of Movers
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 1,002 922
Las Vegas-Paradise 909 198
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro* 889 88
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 830 2,052
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 771 1,744
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria* -8 1,251
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 562 979

(Source:  American Community Survey 2006-2008 and 2009-20113-year data. Note: an asterisk (*) reflects a statistically significant difference between the two periods.)

Washington, D.C., led in attracting analytic creative-class workers, those in science, computing, software, and mathematics fields. San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, San Jose, and Houston also attracted a considerable number of the analytic creative class.

Houston led in attracting synthetic creative-class workers, mainly engineers and architects. (Houston is a major center for engineering and has seen a construction boom as well). Seattle, Dallas, San Jose, San Diego, D.C., and Boston were other leading destinations for the synthetic creative class.

Austin led in attracting the symbolic creative class of artists—designers, media, and entertainment workers. Las Vegas, with its large entertainment complex, also did well, as did Portland, Dallas, New York, and L.A.

Washington, D.C., was the overall leading city, scoring highly across all three types of creative-class workers. Seattle, New York, San Jose, Houston, and Dallas each did well in two types.

***

The third chart below traces the movement of the creative class between metros.

Largest Flow of Creative Class Moves by Type

Analytic Workers
From To Numbers of Movers
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont 2,176
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 1,541
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Baltimore-Towson 1,379
Baltimore-Towson Washington-Arlington-Alexandria 852
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 739
Synthetic Workers
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 840
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont 688
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 536
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington 330
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown 257
Symbolic Workers
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 1,090
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 652
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington 605
San Francisco-Oakland-Freemont Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 501
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 369

(Source:  American Community Survey 2006-2008 and 2009-20113-year data. Note: Excludes movers from abroad and intra-metropolitan moves.)

The biggest flows were mainly between adjacent metros like San Jose and San Francisco; D.C. and Baltimore; and New York and Philadelphia. But the pattern for the symbolic creative class was different than for the others. There was a considerable flow of artists, designers, media, and entertainment workers away from New York to L.A and from Miami to New York.

The fourth chart traces creative class moves within metros, which comprise the largest number of total moves. Burd traced creative class moves within metros, including moves within larger consolidated metropolitan areas, which include two core cities, like Washington-Baltimore or San Francisco-San Jose.

Leading Places for Within Metro Moves

2006-2008 2009-2011
Analytic Number of Moves
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 28,362 29,572
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria* 20,625 25,273
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana* 15,652 20,118
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville 14,804 13,926
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy 13,859 14,750
San Francisco-Oakton-Fremont* 12,236 15,430
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue* 11,412 13,765
Synthetic Number of Movers
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana* 6,744 9,316
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 6,388 6,280
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown* 5,046 6,592
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 4,406 4,393
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria 4,393 5,050
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 3,660 4,509
Symbolic Number of Movers
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island 26,000 26,664
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana* 23,471 28,222
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville 7,737 8,340
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 6,056 5,677
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach* 5,948 7,910
San Francisco-Oakland-Santa Clara* 5,875 7,399

(Source:  American Community Survey 2006-2008 and 2009-20113-year data. Note: an asterisk (*) reflects a statistically significant difference between the two periods.)

Large metros tend to have more moves simply because they have more people. So it is not surprising that New York and L.A. have large numbers of creative-class moves across all three types of workers. But Chicago, the nation’s third-largest metro, fails to make the top five for the synthetic creative class. Dallas, the fourth largest, does not make the top five for the analytic creative class. And Houston, the fifth largest, does well on the synthetic creative class but does not place on the other two. Smaller metros like D.C. (seventh largest), Boston (10th largest), San Francisco (11th), and Seattle also rank among the top five in various categories; and Miami (8th largest) registered big gains in the symbolic creative class.

Four metros—D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle—had statistically significant increases in the analytical creative class between the two time frames, while two—L.A. and Houston—had statistically significant increases in the synthetic creative class. Three—L.A., San Francisco, and Miami—had statistically significant increases for the symbolic category. L.A. was the only metro to register statistically significant gains in all three creative groups.

***

Generally speaking, creative-class workers are much more likely to move within metros or to adjacent metros, say between Baltimore and D.C. or between San Jose and San Francisco, than they are to make long-distance moves.

But Burd’s work does point to one exception: the symbolic, or more artistic, creative class, for whom longer-distance moves, say from New York to L.A., are more frequent. Maybe Moby and David Byrne were right—maybe higher housing prices are pushing artists and musical creatives away from New York.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  2. Black and white West Charlotte High School students pose together in and around their school bus in 1972.
    Equity

    How America's Most Integrated School Segregated Again

    A new book tracks how a Charlotte, North Carolina, high school went from an integration success story to the city’s most isolated and impoverished school.

  3. An apartment building with a sign reading "free rent."
    Equity

    If Rent Were Affordable, the Average Household Would Save $6,200 a Year

    A new analysis points to the benefits of ending the severe affordability crisis.

  4. Equity

    What the New Urban Anchors Owe Their Cities

    Corporations like Google and Amazon reap the spoils of winner-take-all urbanism. Here’s how they can also bear greater responsibility.

  5. Maps

    Mapping College vs. Pro Football Fans

    College football still dominates in the South.