It is a beautiful Monday afternoon and time to blog. First, a look at current events. The images are horrific: Parents and children being separated by border patrol agents upon arrival in the United States. Regardless of what party you vote, you cannot turn a blind eye to the cruelty of the Trump adminsitration's Zero-Tolerance policy toward undocumented immigrants. What is even worse is there is no protocol in place for parents to stay in touch with their children or family re-unification. Further, it raises concerns about the possibility of the parents unknowingly signing away their rights, making it possible for their children to be adopted away. Blogger lives in a border state and can appreciate the need for safe secure borders but not at the expense of a child taken from his or her parents. If you have not done so already, read former FLOTUS Laura Bush's sharp rebuke to this heinous policy in today's Washington Post (washingtonpost.com; June 18, 2018). Cruelty is not what the United States is about. If we are to continue our claim of being a just and moral country, Zero-Tolerance must end. On to something more pleasant.
Culture and urban development. What do they have in common? Richard Florida writes in his CityLab article "How Culture Shapes Economic Development," "One of the big questions in urbanism is the degree to which culture shapes economic development." Conventional wisdom said that "culture follows from economic development: The more developed and affluent that a city becomes, the more money that it has to spend creating art galleries, museums, concert halls, and other cultural venues."
Mr. Florida's own studies of the creative class and a large number of studies support the fact that culture functions as a key driver in economic development by attracting "talented, ambitious people to cities. Others go further, contending that arts and culture are large industries that act as direct inputs into development."
A recent paper, The New Urban Success: How Culture Pays (frontiersin.org; date accessed June 18, 2018) jointly authored by University of Cambridge and Nokia Bell Labs scientists: Desislava Hristova, Luca M. Aiello, and Daniele Quercia takes a deep dive into the link between culture and economic development in New York and London. The paper, published in Frontiers in Physics, "looks at the way in which culture and cultural capita, interact with economic factors (such as changes in median income and house prices) to shape urban economic development." Since urban economic development and culture are increasingly connected to gentrification and deepening inequality, the paper "looks at the effect of cultural capital on housing prices and housing affordability in these cities."
The co-authors set about accomplishing this by following approximately "1.5 million photographic images of the venues and events that comprise he cultural capital of both New York and London." The paper separates cultural capital into nine categories: "advertising and market; architecture; crafts; design (product, graphic, and fashion); IT software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries, and libraries; and music, performing, and visual arts."
Richard Florida reports, "The study gauges the effects of these types of cultural capital on both median income, house prices,many composite indexes of urban development in London's 33 boroughs and 60 of New York's 71 community districts over the period 2007 to 2014, spans the Great Recessiin and its recovery." The main point is that "culture or cultural capital plays a key role, operating alongside more traditional economic factors, in shaping urban development."
"Culture and neighborhood development"
CityLab re-printed a graph generated by the co-authors that illustrates the function of cultural capital and economic development in New York and London, respectively. Mr. Florida writes, "The study finds that both these types of capital have a role in urban development and the improvement of neighborhoods." Each dot on the graph corresponds to a neighborhoods and its placement on the graph is measured by the twin values of capital for that particular neighborhood. The size of the dot corresponds to positive change in development; the larger and darker the dot, the greater the level of development.
Richard Florida reports, "Cultural capital plays a strong role, alongside economic factors, in neighborhoods in the upper right-hand quadrant of these graphs." This quadrant includes the posh London neighborhoods of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminister, and the City of London; and tony New York City neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Midtown, and Brooklyn Heights. Cultural capital also largely factors into economic development in neighborhoods in the lower right-hand quadrant of the graphs: Camden, Islington, and Hackney in London; the Lower East Side, Bushwick, and East Harlem in New York?
Mr. Florida asks this question, " But do certain types of culture and certain forms of cultural capital matter to neighborhood development?"
To understand this, the paper analyzes the specific types of cultural capital hat affected the development of specific neighborhoods. Mr. Florida observes, "Performance arts are prominent in he central areas of both cities, while architecture in both central and peripheral areas." For example, East London specializes in design, while West London tends to specialize in marketing and the performing arts.
CityLab published another set of charts follows the effects of cultural specialization and cultural diversity on community development. The color of the dots corresponds to a location's cultural specialty, and the size of dots reflects its cultural diversity.
Throughout London and New York, "higher levels of neighborhood development are associated with cultural diversity as well as cultural capital." Mr. Florida writes, "The neighborhoods with the highest levels of development tend to specialize in performing arts. In London, higher levels of urban development are also associated with the design and publishing industries.
"Culture and housing prices"
Between director Spike Lee's anti-gentrification screeds (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017; date accessed June 18, 2018) to singer-songwriter extraordinaire David Byrnes' compliant that New York City has been taken over by the top 1 percent (observer.com; Oct. 8, 2013; date accessed June 18, 2018), the arts and culture have come to symbolize gentrification triggers and increasing housing prices. Another set of graphs illustrates the close connection between cultural capita, housing prices around New York and London, although Mr. Florida notes, "... although cultural capital appears to play an even greater role in London's housing prices than in New York's." All of these specific kinds of cultural capital associated with housing prices increases, however, again, the associations are closer in London than in New York. The co-authors explain,
[E]lven though several economic and geographical factors impact house prices--such as property type or size... cultural capital alone holds a considerable explanatory power.
Ultimately, the paper concluded that "cultural capital has been a significant factor in development of urban neighborhoods in superstar cities of London and New York, both during and after the Great Recession." Culture is not just an afterthought or an addition, rather, "a key contributor to urban economic growth." However, in powering neighborhood growth and development, it has resulted in rising housing prices and contributing to gentrification.
Richard Florida concludes, "Culture, then, is bound up with the New Urban Crisis--a crisis of development and success--which is making our largest and most dynamic cities more expensive and less affordable, and in doing so, threatens the very economic, racial, and cultural diversity which has fueled their creativity in the first place."
It is kind of a Catch-22 situation: To achieve urban economic development, you need a cultural attraction. However, in creating a cultural attraction, you risk driving up housing prices, driving out the very people and places that made a neighborhood so attractive in the first place. The solution lies in a more inclusive approach to cultural development that benefits everyone.