Richard Florida’s interview with Jonah Lehrer over at the Atlantic Cities about “creative density” got me thinking about the work I did on “degree density” in 2010. The concept that Lehrer describes is relatively simple: lots of like minded people in close proximity to each other drives creativity because these people can bounce ideas off of each other and learn from each other.
Lehrer talks about David Bryne of the Talking Heads:
David Byrne, after all, wasn’t influenced by the Latin rhythms of some distant musician. Instead, Byrne was seduced by his local dance clubs, blasting those songs he could hear from the sidewalk. It is the sheer density of the city — the proximity of all those overlapping minds — that makes it such an inexhaustible source of creativity.
A major flaw with my 2010 analysis is that it focused on entire cities and counties. It ignored the fact that the size of cities is somewhat arbitrary and that density is more of a neighborhood phenomenon than a city or metro area phenomenon.
Within a single city, there can be pockets of degree density (which, admittedly, is a very crude proxy for creative density as Lehrer describes it, or even for intelligence, as many commenters have pointed out). There can be neighborhoods where lots of educated people are highly concentrated, while another neighborhood in the exact same city could be much less dense and not a place where many degree holders live.
The easiest way for me to explain this is visually. First, here’s a map of the Washington D.C. metro area. Each dot represents 1,000 adults 25 and older with at least a college degree. Not surprisingly, degree holders are much more sparely populated in the fringe parts of the metro area than in the urban core.
[Continue reading Rob Pitingolo’s post at Extraordinary Observations.]
Rob Pitingolo blogs at Extraordinary Observations. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.