In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Creative Class

  • Introduction
  • Defining the Creative Class
  • Inequality and Divides
  • Policy and Planning

Urban Studies Creative Class
Melanie Fasche
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922481-0072


The US-American urban economist Richard Florida introduced the concept of the creative class in the early 2000s. The creative class concept and its associated creative class theory are based on Florida’s observations of Pittsburgh’s economic transformation from an industrial to a creative economy and subsequent research on metropolitan areas in the United States. The creative class represents a growing occupational class that is paid to think and create, and to solve problems, and is highly skilled in comparison to the working class and service class who apply physical and routine skills to their work. According to Florida, the creative class comprises one-third to 50 percent of the workforce and at least half of all wages and salaries in postindustrial economies. The associated creative class theory builds on theories of agglomeration (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Agglomeration”) and argues that the creative class clusters in urban areas with certain quality of place characteristics that offer inspiration, experiences, opportunities to meet, and serendipitous encounters with a diverse set of creative people. Places possessing these qualities are believed to be more competitive in attracting and retaining the creative class, and hence in generating innovation and economic growth. The introduction of the creative class concept and creative class theory has caused a critical debate and conversation across academic disciplines, including urban geography, economic geography, regional and urban economics, urban planning, urban sociology, architecture, public policy, and management. Criticism has mainly focused on the definition of the creative class, occupations as a measure for human capital, effects on economic growth, impacts on urban and economic policies, and associations with economic, social, and spatial inequalities in cities. Scholars across disciplines have tried and tested the concept and theory in metropolitan regions in North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania, and expanded the spatial focus beyond large cities to midsize and smaller cities as well as rural areas. Florida himself has stayed engaged in the debate and has been developing his thinking since the inception of the creative class concept and creative class theory in the early 2000s. The concept of the creative class is widely cited and has become a key reference for any work about the creative and knowledge economy. More recently, the concept has been accepted into the conceptual repertoire and canon across social sciences. Beyond the academy, the concept of the creative class and creative class theory have influenced urban and economic development policies and practices around the world.

General Overviews

The entries in this section introduce to the key works about the creative class concept and creative class theory by Richard Florida, reveal the evolution of Florida’s thinking responding to both criticism and economic developments, and show the acceptance and integration of the creative class concept and creative class theory into the conceptual repertoire across social sciences. Florida’s scholarship is largely based on research on metropolitan areas in the United States.

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